Does Divorce Affect Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)?

The financial landscape of a family can dramatically shift after divorce. This change often has implications for college-bound students. One area where this impact is felt is in the process of applying for federal student aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA form.

For parents filling out the FAFSA

The process of filling out financial aid forms like the FAFSA can be more nuanced when parents are divorced. The general rule is that the custodial parent, the one with whom the child lived the most during the past 12 months, fills out the FAFSA. This is irrespective of which parent has legal custody or who claims the child as a dependent for tax purposes.

If a student’s parents live together despite being divorced or separated, however, the situation changes. The income and assets of both parents will then be considered in the calculation of the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This financial information determines the student's financial aid eligibility.

If the custodial parent remarries, the stepparent's income and assets must also be reported on the FAFSA. This addition can significantly affect the EFC and the amount of financial aid the student may receive.

For adult students filling out the FAFSA

For adult students of divorced parents, the impact of a divorce on the FAFSA hinges largely on their dependency status. If you're considered a dependent student even though you're an adult, the same rules apply as those for younger students. Your custodial parent’s information must be provided in the application.

If you're classified as an independent student, however, your marital status is taken into account instead of your parents' marital status. For instance, if you're separated but not divorced, FAFSA still views you as married, and you must provide your spouse's information. This status can affect your EFC and, consequently, the financial aid package you receive for your college education.

Remember that the primary goal of the FAFSA is to assess a family's financial strength and ability to contribute to the student's education. Therefore, any changes in family structure, income, or assets can have a substantial impact on the financial aid process.

FAQ about the FAFSA and divorce

Does the FAFSA require a copy of divorce papers?

A copy of divorce papers is not typically required when you’re initially filling out the application. However, the college's financial aid administrator may request a copy of the divorce decree or separation agreement during the verification process.

Which parent should fill out the FAFSA for a child of divorced parents?

The custodial parent is usually responsible for filling out the FAFSA. The custodial parent is the parent that the student lived with most during the past 12 months.

Does marital status impact how much aid I might receive?

Yes, marital status can significantly impact the amount of aid a student might receive. The FAFSA takes into account the income and assets of both parents if they live together, even if they’re separated or divorced. If the custodial parent remarries, the stepparent's information must also be reported, potentially affecting the EFC and the financial aid the student may receive.

At Hello Divorce, we know that college costs a lot these days. Before you apply to school, or your child does, find out all you can about college financial aid. Armed with as much knowledge as possible, you’ll be better prepared to ask for financial aid for those college expenses.


How Do I Complete the FAFSA if My Parents Are Divorced or Separated?
Dependency Status.


Divorce Specialists
After spending years in toxic and broken family law courts, and seeing that no one wins when “lawyer up,” we knew there was an opportunity to do and be better. We created Hello Divorce to the divorce process easier, affordable, and completely online. Our guiding principles are to make sure both spouses feel heard, supported, and set up for success as they move into their next chapter in life.