FAFSA and Divorced Parents: Who Fills It Out?

It's almost October 1, and that means one thing for college and college-bound students: FAFSA season. FAFSA rules require students under the age of 24 to fill the financial aid form out with a parent. If your parents are divorced, the situation could be confusing, or based on a myth! So who fills out the FAFSA?

FAFSA Basics

Just a reminder: the FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It's the governmental form that pulls together the information to determine your student's financial aid needs. For more families, it takes about 15 minutes to fill out.

The government then works their formulas and sends the information to the specified colleges and universities. Those schools will then prepare financial aid packages ahead of the next school year. So while October 1 for the 2020-2021 school year seems early, it's really the perfect time to get this bit of planning and paperwork out of the way.

Even if you haven't been eligible for grants or scholarships before, you should fill out a new form each year. Financial aid situations change from year to year! And over $2.6 BILLION in financial aid went unclaimed in 2018!

FAFSA and Divorced Parents

But what if your parents are divorced? Many people believe that the FAFSA parent is the parent who claims you on their taxes... but that's actually not true. According to Christie Smith, FAFSA expert and Director of Business Development for Sallie Mae, it is the parent the student has lived with the most over the course of the year.

For many divorced families, there are legal agreements as to who claims dependents on their taxes, but that doesn't hold in regard to the FAFSA. The actual dollars spent under the parent's roof is what they want to know, to determine financial aid need.

Start Early and Communicate

Do you spend roughly the same amount of time with each parent? Be sure and communicate and keep track of the time together. This will make FAFSA determinations much easier.

No matter what, we urge you to fill out the FAFSA! Even if you're "sure" you won't get financial aid... you never know what you could be eligible for.


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