Postponing remarriage to get more college financial aid

by Grace

There are a many “tricks” that will increase your odds of getting college financial aid, including postponing remarriage so that household income looks low.

I Do! (In a Few Years)
The Fafsa asks a seemingly absurd question: “Who is considered a parent?” Yet frequently families react with frustration when I explain how the government defines parents for financial aid purposes. If both parents are alive and married to each other, they check off the “married” box and include their information on the Fafsa.

If there has been a divorce or legal separation, you need to determine who the student lived with more than 50 percent of the time the previous year. That’s the custodial parent. Only the custodial parent’s income and assets appear on the Fafsa; the noncustodial parent’s income and asset information don’t (though a child support question and another untaxed income question can reflect household support).

This is true even if the divorce arrangement says the noncustodial parent has to pay for the whole expense, or things are split evenly.

Here’s the surprise for some stepparents: Let’s say mom, the custodial parent, marries stepdad. Both mom and stepdad’s income and assets appear on the form. Maybe when they married they had a deal: he would pay for his children, she would pay for hers. Not happening. Of course, I don’t recommend holding off on saying, “I do!” (again) until after all the children have their degrees, but be aware of the rules.

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