If you’re a divorced or separated parent, it’s important to understand how to report your marital status and assets on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) since it will impact your student’s child’s student aid eligibility.

When do students report their parents’ marital status on the FAFSA?

Most students are considered dependent and will need to provide information about their legal parent(s) when completing the FAFSA. A legal parent is a biological or adoptive parent or a parent as determined by the state (for example, the parent listed on a birth certificate).

If the parents are divorced and living separately, which one provides financial information on the FAFSA?

The custodial parent provides financial information on the FAFSA. The custodial parent is the person that the student lived with the most during the past 12 months prior to filling out the FAFSA. This may not necessarily be the parent who has legal custody. If the student spent the same amount of time with each parent over the past 12 months, the parent who provided the most financial support should provide information for the FAFSA.

What if the parents are divorced or separated and still live together?

If the parents are divorced and still live together, then indicate your marital status as “unmarried and both parents living together” and provide financial information for both parents. If the parents are separated and still live together, then indicate your marital status as “married or remarried” and provide financial information for both parents.

Are we required to include financial information for the stepparent when the custodial parent remarries?

Yes, you must include financial information for the custodial parent’s spouse, even if the noncustodial parent is responsible for college expenses based on the divorce agreement.

Are my stepchildren included in household information?

A stepparent’s children may be included in household size if the stepparent provides more than half of their support, even if they don’t live with the stepparent. If these children are enrolled on an at least a half-time basis in a college program that leads to a certificate or degree, they may be included in the number of children in college.

How do we report child support or alimony from the noncustodial parent?

Child support and alimony must be reported on the custodial parent’s FAFSA. There are questions for additional financial information and untaxed income information.

Do colleges ever look at the financial information for the noncustodial parent?

Some colleges do request additional financial information when granting institutional financial aid. This information is obtained using a supplemental financial aid form from the noncustodial parent. The noncustodial parent’s income may affect institutional aid but has no impact on federal or state aid.

You may need to talk to the financial aid office if you have further questions about your specific household situation.


About the Author

Jodi Okun is founder and president of College Financial Aid Advisors. She is also the About.com Money Expert on “Paying for College,” and acknowledged as one of the “Top 30 Social Influencers in Personal Finance & Wealth.” She has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Mashable, US News & Education and The Huffington Post. The opinions expressed in this article are Jodi’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Discover Student Loans.

FAFSA is a registered service mark of the US Department of Education.