Getting a child ready for college can be a huge undertaking. The biggest concern for most parents is how to pay for college without straddling the child with a lot of student loans. With college costs increasing much faster than inflation, proper planning from the outset is critical.
If the parents are divorced, they should try to work together to help plan and pay for college, to the extent possible. If parents are divorced, separated, or never married, the custodial parent is the party responsible for filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The custodial parent (for student aid purposes) is the parent with whom the child lived the most during the prior 12 months, which may or may not be the same as the parent with legal custody. If a child lived with both parents equally, the parent who provided the child with the most financial support should fill out the FAFSA.
The FAFSA is a federal form that is used to make a lot of college financing decisions, such as whether a student is eligible for grants, student loans, or certain scholarships based on income. The federal government does not consider the income and assets of the non-custodial parent in determining whether a child is eligible for financial aid, but it does consider child support received.
If you are divorcing and you have children, you should address each parent’s obligation concerning college support. Your agreement can put limits on how many semesters of support each parent will provide, restrictions on which colleges the child can attend, index payments to the tuition at a certain college, and address which other expenses of college the parent will pay for. In the absence of such an agreement, typically parents are not required to pay for any child support once the child reaches the age of 18, unless he or she is still in high school.
Paying for college can be tough for anyone, but it can be an especially sticky situation when the student’s parents are divorced. It’s important that you plan for college expenses before a divorce is final, and address them in your divorce agreement.
If you have any questions about divorce and paying for college, call New Port Richey, Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. He works with clients in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties in Florida, and will be happy to speak with you about your case. Call to learn more.