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I agreed (outside of the courts) to pay my daughter's car payment and
some additional spending money for internet access. This increased my
costs by $100 per month beyond the child support obligation. Can I
exclude this amount from the child support payments I have listed on
the FAFSA? Unlike the child support, this money is being paid to my
— Janice G.
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The US Department of Education clarified in 2009 that child support
includes only amounts paid because of a divorce decree, separation
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agreement or a legal child support agreement. Voluntary payments from
the non-custodial parent to the student are instead treated as untaxed
income to the student. This shifts some untaxed income from the
parents to the student, which usually will result in a higher expected
family contribution (EFC).
This also means that a parent who is paying child support does not
report voluntary payments above his or her legal obligation on his or
her own FAFSA. Since child support paid reduces total income on the
FAFSA, this exclusion of the voluntary payments will usually result in
a higher EFC for the parent.
Thus it is financially beneficial for both child and parent to ask
the court amend the child support agreement to include the voluntary
I am a single mom who has been divorced for 12 years. My children
will be 18, 16 and 13 next year. My girls have lived with me 100%
since day one. We live in Tennessee and their father lives in
California. When we got divorced I never thought about
asking him to pay for college. He makes about $200,000 a year, so he
should be able to do this. I think the divorce papers probably say he
is required to pay for child support till the girls are 18. Is there
any way I can extend child support till they all get through college? I
am assuming I would need to hire an attorney and go to court to do
— Kay P.
Your first step should be to read your divorce decree to see what it
says about child support and college support. Sometimes a divorce
decree will extend child support through college graduation (provided
that the student is enrolled continuously on at least a half-time
basis). Sometimes a divorce decree will require college support.
Since you have a good relationship with your ex-husband, why not try
asking him if he'd be willing to help out with their college costs?
They are his children too, so he has a personal stake in their college
success. He will be more willing to help out if you keep him informed
and make him part of the college planning process. Tell him about
their preparation for college, their test scores, the colleges they
are considering, what they will be majoring in and their academic
progress. If you ask nicely, he might help pay for their college
education even if he has no legal obligation to do so.
Otherwise, talk to an attorney. Neither Tennessee nor California has
laws requiring or prohibiting the awarding of college support as part
of a divorce decree.
See FinAid's page on
for additional discussion of college support.