Divorce and Financial Aid

By Julie gross

Applying for college financial aid is undoubtedly stressful for families.  It can be even more stressful and confusing for divorced families.  I have listed some simple rules to help demystify the process.

  • The FAFSA and CSS Profile must be completed using the custodial parent’s information only.
  • The custodial parent, for sake of financial aid, is the parent that the student resides with more than 51% of the time or the parent that provides the most support for the student. It has nothing to do with who claims them on their tax return or divorce decree. 
  • Many colleges that require the CSS Profile, will require a separate CSS Profile to be completed by the non-custodial parent. Check the college’s website for required applications.
  • You may request a non-custodial waiver from the school if the non-custodial parent is not involved in the student’s life. A non-custodial parent’s refusal to participate will likely not be accepted as a reason to waive the requirement.
  • If either parent is remarried, their new spouse’s information will be required on financial aid applications.
  • Biological parents that are separated, living in two different households, will be treated the same as divorced parents. 

While some of these rules don’t seem fair, you must abide by these rules in order to be considered for financial aid.  Every school requires the FAFSA in order to be considered for financial aid but only a few hundred of the colleges, mostly private, require the CSS Profile and non-custodial CSS Profile. You can click here to see which schools require the CSS Profile and non-custodial CSS Profile.