9.7Susan M. Hais

Divorce is eminent, and your baby is going to college. This is an exciting time for parents and children alike, but the financial demands of a child attending college can be a stressor. There are a few important facts to keep in mind to help guide you through the maze of paying for a college education.

Have you addressed how college will be financed in your divorce agreement? It is important to know who is responsible for paying for what. College expenses not only include tuition and books, they also include housing, food, and travel expenses. Setting forth this responsibility during the divorce process can alleviate pressure on all parties and likely avoid miscommunication or arguments later on. It is advisable that you consult an attorney when establishing these expectations.  

Have you reviewed the FAFSA requirements on how to fill out the form? Unless you are in a position to write a check for college, you will be required to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid in order to apply for grants, loans, and scholarships. Custody is not the key consideration in the eyes of FAFSA, rather where the child has resided the majority of the year is deemed most important. For example, if the child is claimed on the father’s tax return but has lived eight of the last twelve months with the mother, the information that is required by FAFSA is the mother’s. This is important to know for planning purposes in order to maximize aid in financing a college education.

Have you examined the effects of remarriage with regard to qualifying for financial aid? Financial aid is determined by an expected family contribution that is directly related to the amount of income a household earns. Regardless of who has had custody of a child, the parent with whom the child lives is still the one whose income will be considered. This means that if a parent remarries, the income of the step-parent will be considered as part of the household income. In most cases, this reduces the amount of aid the child will be eligible to receive. This fact is important to consider if paying for college is going to be a struggle.

For many parents, educating their children is a top priority. Careful planning and understanding the basics can help reduce this daunting task. If you are unsure how to protect this opportunity for your child during the divorce process, please contact Hais, Hais, and Goldberger for guidance.