The Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA® form is required for students who are interested in receiving federal financial aid. This task can be challenging and can increase in complexity when a student has parents who are divorced.
The federal government treats divorced parents differently than parents who are married. Understanding the requirements for the financial information required by the FAFSA could help students improve their chances of receiving federal student aid and potentially lowering the amount of student loans they need to obtain a degree.
Continue reading for more information on filling out the FAFSA if your parents are divorced or separated.
What Complicates FAFSA for Divorced Parents?
The FAFSA treats parents who are divorced differently than it treats parents who are married. If a student’s parents are married, the FAFSA requires both of the parents to submit their financial information. Students who have divorced parents will usually include the salary and other financial information of the parent that he/she lived with for the majority of the time for the past 12 months. This parent is considered the custodial parent.
If a student lived with each parent for equal amounts of time, they’ll provide information on the parent that provided the most financial support during the year.
If the parent has remarried by the time a student is filing the FAFSA, the financial information of the parent’s new spouse will also typically be required on the form.
Recommended: Important FAFSA Deadlines for Students and Parents
FAFSA Tips for Students with Divorced Parents
Here are some important questions to ask yourself and tips for completing the FAFSA application with divorced parents:
Who to Count as Parents for FAFSA
If your parents are divorced, the FAFSA generally requests information on the parent whom you live with for the majority of the time during the previous 12 months. In the case of shared custody where you live with each parent equally, you’ll provide information on the parent who provides the most financial support.
If your parent is remarried, you’ll provide information on the stepparent, as well.
What Is a Custodial Parent?
As briefly mentioned, a custodial parent is the parent you spend the most time living with during the year.
What About Stepparents and Common-Law Spouses?
Generally, you’ll need to provide the financial information for a stepparent who is married to the custodial parent.
Should Alimony Be Included as Income?
Any alimony or child support received by the custodial parent should be reported on the FAFSA.
Parent’s Education Level
The FAFSA will ask you to include the education levels of your parents. You only need to include information about either your birth or adoptive parents. In this section, the FAFSA does not need information about your stepparent.
What If My Divorced Parents Still Live Together?
If your parents live together, but are divorced, the marital status should be “Unmarried and both legal parents living together.” You need to provide information about both of them on the FAFSA form.
If your parents live together, but are separated, the marital status should be “married or remarried.” Do not use “divorced or separated.” You should provide information about both of them on the FAFSA form.
Additional Sources to Finance Tuition
Many students seek alternative financial aid to finance college if they do not qualify for federal aid or if the amount of federal aid allocated will not cover the entire tuition cost.
About half of college tuition and living expenses are paid by the income and savings of a student’s family members, according to a Sallie Mae study, “How America Pays for College in 2024 .”
There are many other sources that could help a student obtain funding for tuition, books, and living expenses. When filling out the FAFSA, students are applying for federal financial aid. This includes federal student loans, the federal work-study program, and some federal grants.
Some colleges also use information provided on the FAFSA to determine awards for scholarships. Federal aid is provided on a first-come first-served basis, so it can potentially be helpful to file your FAFSA early. Check out even more detailed information in SoFi’s FAFSA guide.
Federal student loans can be either subsidized or unsubsidized.
Subsidized federal loans are given to students based on financial need. The interest on these loans is subsidized by the federal government, which means students will not be responsible for repaying the interest that accrues while they are enrolled at least part time or during their grace period.
Unsubsidized loans are not awarded based on need and will begin accruing interest as soon as the loan is disbursed.
Recommended: Types of Federal Student Loans
If federal aid is not enough to cover the cost associated with attending college, there are other options available to help you pay for college. Two sources of funding are grants and scholarships. These are highly sought after by students because they do not have to be repaid. Many of them require students to apply annually.
SoFi’s Scholarship Search Tool can help you find scholarships based on your location, level of study, and more.
Some students may also consider getting a part-time job to help pay for tuition or living expenses. Consider looking both on and off campus, or even online.
Private Student Loans
Private student loans could be another option for students to fill the gap to pay for tuition and other necessities, such as room and board and books.
Private student loans are offered by private organizations, like banks or online lenders, and can be more expensive than federal student loans. They also don’t come with the same borrower protections as federal loans, like deferment or income-driven repayment plans. That’s why private student loans are generally considered an option after students have exhausted all other sources of financing.
The loan terms and interest rate will vary from lender to lender and will likely be determined by the borrower’s financial history and credit score. Those interested in borrowing a private loan should consider shopping around with various lenders to find the best fit for them.
SoFi’s Private Student Loans
If your federal student aid, scholarships, and grants do not cover the entire amount of your tuition and living expenses, you can consider an undergraduate private student loan from SoFi. In just a few minutes, students can see if they pre-qualify for a private loan, what the interest rates are, and if a cosigner is needed.
SoFi has four repayment options for its undergraduate loans, giving students financial options to meet their budgets and financial circumstances.
SoFi private student loans offer competitive interest rates for qualifying borrowers, flexible repayment plans, and no fees.
Does FAFSA require both parents’ income if they are divorced?
If your parents are divorced, you’ll generally report the information for the parent you lived with for the most amount of time in the past 12 months. If your parents have joint custody and you spend an equal amount of time with both parents, you’ll report the financial information of the parent who provided the most financial support during the previous 12 months.
How do you determine who parent 1 and parent 2 are for FAFSA?
Parent 1 and Parent 2 will be determined by how their information was entered into the FAFSA when the form was being completed. If the mother’s information was entered first, she would be Parent 1 and vice versa. If you cannot recall who was listed as Parent 1 or Parent 2 on your FAFSA, you can look the information up by navigation to the “Personal Information for Parent” page of your application and reviewing the information provided.
What is the maximum parent income to qualify for FAFSA?
There are no income limits when it comes to filling out the FAFSA or qualifying for federal financial aid. Even if your parents are high earners, you could still qualify for certain types of aid, such as scholarships or federal student loans. The FAFSA application is free to fill out, so it’s almost always worth taking the time to do so.
SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.
SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.