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Can I Get a New Financial Aid Package if My Mom Lost Her Job?

Mark Kantrowitz

September 29, 2009

I currently have a stepson in college and a daughter who is currently applying for financial aid. My stepson does not live with us but my husband is still paying child support. Since I have to include my husband’s income when filling out the FAFSA for my daughter, is it appropriate for me to state that I have a child currently enrolled in college? I do not want to affect any financial aid my stepson is currently receiving. — Sandi L.

If your husband provides more than half your stepson’s support, you should include your stepson in household size and number in college on your daughter’s FAFSA. But then you cannot report the amount of child support paid on her FAFSA. Likewise, if your husband pays less than half your stepson’s support, you should report the amount of child support paid on your daughter’s FAFSA, but you cannot include your stepson in household size and number in college on her FAFSA.

To the extent that the amount of child support is in a gray middle area, there’s a tradeoff between including the stepson in the number in college and reporting the amount of child support paid. Either option will reduce your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), but the amount of the reduction will differ and will depend on your particular financial circumstances. The parental contribution part of the expected family contribution is divided by the number of children in college. Total income is reduced by the amount of child support paid. To determine which has a greater impact on the EFC, use a financial aid calculator to evaluate each scenario.

If it’s clear whether your husband does or does not provide more than half support to your stepson, don’t try to fudge the answer. The college may ask to see a copy of the divorce decree as part of the verification process and may perform a detailed calculation to determine whether or not your husband provides more than half support.

In most cases the information reported on your daughter’s FAFSA will not affect your stepson’s FAFSA. Your stepson’s mother is responsible for completing his FAFSA because your stepson lives with her more than he lives with you. If your stepson lived with both of you equally, then it would depend on whichever of the two biological parents provided more support. In that case the treatment of the child support on the two FAFSAs would need to be consistent (i.e., you can’t count it as providing more than half support on one FAFSA and less than half support on the other).


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