How Divorce Can Affect Your Child's Financial Aid Award


When determining child custody during your Pasadena divorce, one factor to consider is how your custody arrangement will affect your teen's ability to receive financial aid for his or her college expenses.

Most schools use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine financial need. This form requires the income of both the child and the parent with whom he or she lives with. (Some private schools use the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, which typically requires income information from both parents.) The child's residency is determined by who he or she lived with the majority of the twelve month period that ends on the day the FAFSA is signed. Who is claiming the child on their tax return is irrelevant, as is the question of which parent is paying child support.

Keep in mind that financial aid can be significantly affected by the remarriage of a parent. If the child lives with a biological parent and a stepparent, both incomes are counted when determining financial aid eligibility.

For the purpose of financial aid, it doesn't matter whether a child's parents and/or stepparents actually plan to help with educational expenses. If they are required to report their income, their income is used in determining financial aid eligibility regardless of whether they follow through with the obligation to pay.

The only way for a child to not have to report parental income is if he or she can be declared an independent student. An independent student meets one or more of the following criteria:

  • Is 24 years of age or older
  • Is attending graduate or professional school
  • Is a US veteran
  • Is married
  • Has a child

A student can have his or her status changed due to unusual circumstances by requesting a dependency status review from the school he or she wishes to attend. However, most requests for a change in status aren't granted. Circumstances have to be considered extreme, so a student who is merely living in an apartment and working part time to pay for school will not qualify.

How Can We Help?

Please call our office at (626) 683-8113 or email us at if you are in need of assistance regarding child custody issues. Our Pasadena family law attorneys can work with you to resolve your issue as quickly and efficiently as possible.