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A Guide to the FAFSA for Students with Divorced Parents

March 26, 2021 · 5 minute read

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A Guide to the FAFSA for Students with Divorced Parents

Figuring out how you’re going to pay for college can be an exhausting exercise. From saving, to budgeting, to applying for scholarships – there’s a lot to keep track of. One step for many families is pursuing federal financial aid.

To do this, parents and students will need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA form. This task can be challenging, but can increase in complexity when the parents are divorced.

The FAFSA is required for students seeking federal aid for undergraduate or graduate school and can be confusing since it requires detailed information about both parents’ income and financial information.

The federal government treats divorced parents differently than parents who are married. Understanding the requirements for the financial information required by the FAFSA and the process of filing the form 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.

Recommended: Important FAFSA Deadlines for Students and Parents

Students who have divorced parents will usually include the salary and other financial information for the parent that he/she lived with for the majority of the time for the past 12 months. The parent that a student lived with the most is considered as the custodial parent.

If a custodial 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.

FAFSA Tips for Students with Divorced Parents

Here are some tips for filling out the FAFSA with divorced parents:

1. While your parents have joint custody, the custodial parent is the one you spent the most time living with during the past 12 months.

2. If you live with both parents that are divorced or separated for an equal amount of time, you should provide answers for the parent who provided the larger amount of financial support during the past 12 months.

3. Use the custodial parent’s financial information such as salary and savings. If your custodial parents remarried, include the stepparent’s financial data as well.

4. If your custodial parents received alimony or child support, include the amounts of those payments.

5. 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.

6. 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.

Less than 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 2018 .”

Federal Aid

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 from some scholarships. Federal aid is provided on a first-come first-served basis so it can potentially be helpful to file your FAFSA early.

Federal student loans can be either subsidized or unsubsidized.

Subsidized federal loans are given to students based on their 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.

Options Beyond Federal Aid

If federal aid is not enough to cover the cost associated with attending college, there are other options available. 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.

There are a few websites online that aggregate information scholarships. The College Board also runs a database with information.

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. Sites like Quadjobs and Snag could be good places to start your search.

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 a bank or online lender, 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.

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 undergraduate student loans are one option for students who did not receive enough financial aid to consider. Students can determine in a few minutes if they pre-qualify for a private loan, what the interest rates are and if a cosigner is needed.

Borrowers can choose from four repayment options with a SoFi for undergraduate loans. This gives students flexibility in choosing the repayment plan that will likely be a good fit for your budget.

The deferred plan gives students time after they graduate and does not require payments for six months. While this option gives people a short reprieve, it is the most expensive option.

The interest-only plan requires students to only pay the interest while they are enrolled in college. These payments can lower the amount you owe after you graduate.

Another option is the partial repayment plan that allows students to make only a low monthly payment while they are students. This payment option also lowers the total amount you will owe after graduation.

The immediate plan has the highest amount of payments because it requires that the student pays both the principal and interest while they are taking classes. This option has the lowest overall cost for students.

Filling out a FAFSA can be daunting, but learning what kind of information the federal government requires can make the process a little bit easier.

Becoming familiar with the kind of financial information that is needed will be beneficial since the form needs to be filled out annually.

If your federal student aid, scholarships and grants do not cover the entire amount of your tuition and living expenses, SoFi has four repayment options for its undergraduate loans, giving students financial options to meet their budgets and financial circumstances.

Looking to fill the gap between federal aid and the cost of college? Consider a SoFi student loan.



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 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.
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