If you have recently gone through a divorce, you may still be feeling the emotional effects and trying to sort out your new life while helping your children adjust to the changes. Divorce has the capacity to affect many aspects of your life, including your ability to finance your child’s college education.
Though ending a marriage can make it more difficult to, say, qualify for a home loan, it may actually have a favorable impact on your ability to secure financial aid for your child. This is especially true if you are your son's or daughter’s primary custodial parent and you are seeking financial assistance by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
What the FAFSA takes into account
The FAFSA is incredibly common, and many, but not all, universities accept it. Your divorce may help you when trying to obtain money using FAFSA because it will only consider the income of the parent with primary custody when determining how much to award. In this circumstance, “primary custody” refers to the parent who provides housing for your child the most within a year-long period. So, if you have your child the majority of the time, you only need to report your own income and not that of your ex-spouse. If, however, you remarry before filling out the form, you do have to include the income of your new spouse, which may reduce any amount of financial aid offered to your child.
What the CSS Profile takes into account
Though less common than the FAFSA, the CSS Profile serves as another application you may use to try and obtain financial aid. In many cases, schools that review the CSS Profile will also want to see the income of your child’s noncustodial parent, even if he or she is not planning on helping finance college. Another way in which the CSS Profile differs from the FAFSA is that it generally will only look at the earnings of your child’s biological parents, meaning stepparent incomes typically do not factor in.
For more about how divorce affects your finances, consider speaking with an attorney.