Who is the custodial parent for the FAFSA?

Photo: pixabay.com

Q. My former spouse and I have shared custody of our child, although neither of us pays each other child support or alimony. Would assets of both parents or one parent be considered on the FAFSA form?
— Divorced

A. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly called the FAFSA, can be confusing to complete, even more so in your situation.

First you need to determine who the “custodial” parent is, said Gene McGovern,a certified financial planner with McGovern Financial Advisors in Westfield.

He said the custodial parent is responsible for filling out the FAFSA. This would apply to both parental “assets” and “income.”

“The custodial parent for federal student aid purposes is the parent with whom the student lived the most during the past 12 months,” McGovern said. “The 12-month period is the 12 months ending on the FAFSA application date, not the previous calendar year.”

If the student did not live with one parent more than the other, the parent who provided the student with the most financial support during the past twelve months should fill out the FAFSA, he said.

“In the rare circumstance where the student lived with both parents equally, and both parents provide an equal amount of financial support for the student, then the tie-breaker is the parent with the higher income is treated as the custodial parent for FAFSA purposes,” McGovern said.

Bear in mind legal custody does not equal custodial parent status on the FAFSA, he said.

It’s also important to not that any child support and/or alimony received from the non-custodial parent, which we know you said wasn’t an issue for you, must be included on the FAFSA.

For more, check out this helpful graphic from the U.S. Department of Education on how to determine the custodial parent.

Email your questions to .

This post was originally published on March 13. 2019.

NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.