Can a Divorce Affect My Child's Chances of Getting Financial Aid?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on June 09, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Prospective students are are often unable to pay for their own college education, so, they need financial aid.

Most students will apply for financial aid by filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as a FAFSA. For most students entering college, their parents' income must be entered into the FAFSA to determine how much money the parents must contribute and how much financial aid the student will get.

But, what if you get divorced? Can that hurt or help your child get financial aid?

FAFSA and Higher Education Act of 1985

The Higher Education Act, passed in 1985, regulates the administration of federal student financial aid programs. Section 475(f) of the Act addresses the computation of parental income in the case of divorce and remarriage.


When a student's parents are still married, both parents' incomes must be included. However, when parents divorce, only one parent's income need be included. Only the income of the parent with whom the student lives with the most in the 12-month period before filing the form must be included. If the student shares equal time with both parents, then the income of the parent who provided the child with the most support should be listed.

Depending on the circumstances, this could help or hurt your child's chances for getting financial aid. For example, John lives with Mom 75 percent of the time. Mom is a teacher who makes $50,000 per year. Dad is an astronaut who makes $250,000 per year. In this case, John would list Mom's income on the FAFSA. Since Mom's income is low, John would get more financial aid. If John actually lived with Dad 75 percent of the time instead, he would have to list Dad's income. John would get less financial aid because Dad's income was higher.


If John's Mom was to get remarried before John filed out his FAFSA, he would then have to list both his Mom's income and his new step-father's income.

If you are divorced or divorcing and are worried about financial future aid for your child, consult an experienced family law attorney for help.

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