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What Divorced Families Need to Know about the Financial Aid Process

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Robyn MacAlpine College Coach

Written by Robyn MacAlpineon April 11th, 2023

Prior to joining College Coach, I worked as a financial aid counselor at Curry College where my main responsibilities included supporting veterans who wanted to begin or continue their educational journey and reconciliation of all federal Pell grant funding. Before Curry, I served as a financial aid counselor at Northeastern University. While at Northeastern, I worked with a large student caseload and reviewed students for financial aid eligibility. I also supported our athletic director to appropriately award scholarships and was a member of several committees including the interview, merit scholarship, and general appeal committees.
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by Robyn MacAlpine, former financial aid officer at Northeastern University It can certainly feel overwhelming to navigate the world of financial aid as a divorced family. But if you take the time to set up a to-do list it will make the process a lot easier to manage. Let’s talk through the important steps involved when filing for financial aid as a divorced family.
  • First and foremost, determine which parent is responsible for completing the Free Application for Financial Aid (FAFSA). As of the 2024/2025 academic year, the parent that provided the greater portion of the student’s financial support, even if the student does not live with them, should be the one filing the FAFSA. The non-custodial parent does not report their income on the application. If the custodial parent is remarried, stepparent data will also be required.
  • If your child is applying to any colleges that require the CSS Profile you may also need the non-custodial parent to report financial information. Here is a list of schools that require the CSS Profile and non-custodial parent information.
    • If the non-custodial parent is not accessible or there are special circumstances about your family situation that prevent the non-custodial parent from submitting their form, there are steps a family can take to file a non-custodial parent profile waiver. Supporting documentation may be required to support this waiver request, so be prepared or go directly to each school to clarify what might be needed. Additional information on the non-custodial parent waiver process can be found here.
    • If either parent is remarried, they are required to provide spouse data in addition to their own information on their individual CSS Profile forms.
  • Always reach out to schools with any questions regarding your specific situation. Financial aid counselors are there to support families!
It is important to understand that the school will have limitations as to who they can speak with regarding the student’s financial aid status due to privacy laws. For the custodial parent to speak with financial aid staff, the student will need to complete a FERPA form. A FERPA form grants permission for third parties to access educational records. The non-custodial parent will not have access to this information (unless a waiver is in place) at any point as it contains custodial parent data. Because speaking with the financial aid office is a critical part of the college decision making process, it is recommended to complete the FERPA as soon as possible. Understanding what is required of your family will help eliminate delays in the financial aid process and allow things to run more smoothly for all involved.

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