My daughter's father and I are divorced and I have remarried.
Neither my previous nor my new husband are contributing toward my
daughter's education, so I am paying all of the expenses myself. How
can I show that in my taxes and on the FAFSA so the aid calculations
are not made using twice the income that is actually being applied
toward her expenses? Last year, I couldn't figure it out and she
received no funding at all. After one year, I've used all of my
savings and have gone into debt. The prospect of three more years of the
same thing means I'll have to work until I'm 80 to pay off her
— Sara J.
You must include the income and assets of your spouse on your
daughter's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is a
matter of federal law.
Section 475(f)(3) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 specifies that
if the parent responsible for completing the FAFSA has remarried as of
the application date, the stepparent's financial information must
be reported on the FAFSA. This requirement applies regardless of
whether the parent is divorced, separated or a widow or widower.
There are no exceptions, not even if you have a prenuptial
agreement, file separate income tax returns or weren't married until
If you appeal for more aid because your husband refuses to contribute,
the appeal will be denied. The US Department of Education does not consider
parental refusal to contribute to the student's education as
sufficient justification for a dependency override or other
adjustments. College financial aid administrators do not have the
authority to change statutory requirements and can't make adjustments
in the absence of unusual circumstances.
The federal government considers the student's parents, including the
stepparent if the custodial parent has remarried, as having the primary
responsibility to pay for the student's college education. The
government only steps in when the parents are unable to pay for
college, not when they are merely unwilling to pay for
college. Students do not qualify for more aid simply because their
parents refuse to help.
It could be worse. The CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE form, which is used
by about 250 colleges for awarding their own financial aid funds,
expects both the stepparent and the noncustodial parent to contribute
to the child's education.
My husband and I have four daughters in college, two from his
previous marriage and two from my previous marriage. All four girls
live on their own. He is divorced from his daughters' mom and they get
their college paid for plus some by financial aid. My two daughters'
father passed away nine years ago. They do not qualify for any
assistance at all because I remarried. Can this be right? This does
not seem fair at all! It seems like students who have only one parent
should not be disqualified for help because their mother remarried.
— Susan S.
Your husband's daughters live with their mother. Since she is
divorced and has not remarried, their financial aid eligibility is
based only on her income and assets.
You, on the other hand, have remarried, so your daughters must report
your husband's finances along with yours on their FAFSA. As noted in
the answer to the previous question, the stepparent's finances must be
reported on the FAFSA when the stepparent is married to the parent who
completes the FAFSA, even if the parent was a widow or widower.
It may not seem fair that your daughters qualify for less financial
aid, but your daughters actually have two parents, you and your
husband. It is because your husband could contribute, even if he is
unwilling, that your daughters do not qualify for as much financial
aid. His ex-wife doesn't have the same advantage as you, since you're
married to him and she isn't.
You are effectively saying that you think the government should have
a greater responsibility to pay for your daughters' education than the
man you married.
My son's father is not part of his life nor does he pay child
support. We're not even sure where he is. Do I need his financial
information for the FAFSA if I am my son's sole support?
— Denise M.
If you are divorced or separated, your ex-husband's financial
information is not reported on the FAFSA. Separation can include an
informal separation, not just a legal separation. If the parents have
an informal separation, however, they cannot live together.
I'm currently a full time student and single mom. Financial aid
covers my tuition completely. My boyfriend and I are waiting until
after graduation to get married. But we have been discussing having him
adopt my daughter as a co-parent (he is not her biological father)
until then. How would this affect my financial aid? Will I lose a lot
of it because of this?
— Tara R.
Legal adoption of your daughter by your boyfriend will not affect your
eligibility for federal student aid, so long as the adoption is
terminating the rights of the biological father, not your rights.
The support you receive from your boyfriend for your daughter counts
as part of your support of the daughter when considering whether you
are independent of your parents. This is the case regardless of
whether he adopts her or not.
If you were to get married before you graduate, however, his income
and assets would be reported on your FAFSA. That could significantly
affect your eligibility for need-based financial aid.
Adoption does potentially affect your daughter's eligibility for
need-based financial aid. A student who has two parents who have not
yet married is treated the same as a student whose parents are
divorced. Only the custodial parent is responsible for completing the
FAFSA. The custodial parent is the parent with whom the student lived
the most during the twelve months ending on the FAFSA application
date. If the student lived with both parents equally, then the
custodial parent is the parent who provided more support to the
student. That might be your boyfriend. If your boyfriend does not
adopt your daugther (and you don't get married), then only your
financial information will be reported on your daughter's FAFSA, not
his. However, any support he provides to your daughter would be
reported as untaxed income on her FAFSA. Of course, this is not a
significant issue if your daughter is still a toddler.
It might be best, though, for you to wait until you are married for
your boyfriend to adopt your daughter. Adoption is in many ways a more
permanent relationship than marriage.