When couples divorce with young children, paying for college may be far from their minds. However, child custody plays an important role in a person's eligibility for financial aid in university. Some Texas colleges will consider the income and assets of both parents' households, including shared assets with new spouses, while others only look at the custodial parents' finances. Different divorce agreements and a parenting plan may also result in different obligations to pay for college expenses.
When applying for college, the college will define the custodial parent as the parent who a child has lived with most in the past 12 months. In shared custody situations, the custodial parent is the one who has provided the most financial support in the past 12 months. Students must determine which parent is custodial to fill out financial aid applications.
If a college only requires a Free Application for Federal Student Aid application, only the custodial parent's income and asset information will be needed. If the college requires the College Scholarship Service Profile, both parents' financials will likely be required. For many children with divorced parents, the difference between financial aid at a school needing just an FAFSA and a school needing both applications can be thousands of dollars.
In both cases, if the custodial parent has a new spouse, the stepparent's income must be reported. Other factors, such as the number of children in college at once, may also impact financial aid for students. Those going through a divorce should consider mapping out an agreement about college expenses as part of the parenting plan, even if their children are young at the time. A Texas family lawyer can help advocate for one's interests in these arrangements.