February 23, 2007

What do you put on a FAFSA for blended families?

Posted in FAFSA, Student Loan News at 2:48 PM by Joe From Boston

In this day and age, there are many blended families out there, so that the old phrase “Yours, mine and ours” is quite commonplace.  Ok – but what do you put on the FAFSA for the various children involved???  Here’s a short answer from teh New York Times.  A free subscription is needed to view the article.

School aid rules byzantine

February 20, 2007

Filling out financial aid forms is difficult enough, but it can be particularly challenging for today’s blended families.

Ask Bill from Elkton.

Bill is divorced and his two daughters live with his ex. He lives with his second wife and her son. He’s working on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form for his stepson. Bill says it looks like his income will be included on his stepson’s FAFSA along with the income of the boy’s father.

“This seems like a double whammy,” he says.

How will the federal government and college financial aid offices consider his income for his two daughters and his stepson? he asks in an e-mail.

Kalman Chany, author of Paying for College Without Going Broke, says the FAFSA can be so confusing for blended families that he includes a section on it in his book under the heading “Soap Opera Digest.”

FAFSA requires the income of the custodial parent, in this case the mother, as well as the stepparent, Bill, says Chany. The earnings of the boy’s father are not included. (When Bill’s daughters fill out the FAFSA, his income won’t be included.)

This is for federal aid. Private colleges use different rules for awarding their own money, and might ask about the income of all adults, Chany says.


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  2. Debbie – from what you’ve told me, I think that you’d be the parent on the FAFSA as your daughter lived with you more than your husband. Here are some more tips to help you get a better handle on the FAFSA. Note that the IRS tax question is used as a last resort only after housing and financial support have been considered.

    • If a parent is widowed or single, fill in the questions appropriately.
    • A step-parent (after marriage) is considered a parent from a financial aid
    • If the parents are divorced or separated, the parent is considered to be the one which the student lived with more in the past 12 months.
    • If the student did not live with either parent in a divorced/separated situation, the parent is the one who contributed more financial assistance in the past 12 months.
    • If the student did not receive appreciably more support from one parent or another, the parent is the one who claims the student as a dependent on the IRS tax return.
    • A foster parent, legal guardian, or a grandparent or other relative is not treated as a parent for purposes of filing a FAFSA unless that person has legally adopted the applicant. An adoptive parent is treated in the same manner as a biological parent on the FAFSA.

  3. Debbie said,

    Can my daughter use my income for the fafsa is her dad claims her on his taxes? He does not provide over 51% of her support. I am worried that because of his high income over $100,000 a year she will not receive any financial. I am below poverty level since the divorce and the financial aid received by my daughters already in college allows them to attend college. He has never claimed any of them before and it has not been an issue.

    • Nick said,

      As a freshman college student two years ago, I was told to report only the parent with the lowest income. Additionally, custodial parent is not the same as the parent who can claim the child as a dependent on their taxes. The child must simply live with one parent more than the other in the year leading up to the fasfa.

      • Nick said,

        annnd I just noticed monique’s post.

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