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The role child custody plays in college financial aid

For the parents of Little Rock's high-school seniors, college may seem right around the corner. Although school only recently started, seniors will need to start applying for school and parents will need to take a hard look at their budgets to see how they will be able to help with school. For single parents, that may be even harder with only one income, which is why most parents turn to financial aid. The question is, however, which parent's income is included if they have joint custody?

Assuming the student is filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the answer is whichever parent has custody most often. If the split is 60 percent of the time with mom and 40 percent of the time with dad, then the mother's income should be used. This is only good news for the student if the mother has the lower income. If, however, the father earns less, the student won't be eligible for as much money in loans.

But how is physical custody measured? Parents should look at who had the most time with the child in the year preceding the filing of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, not the beginning of the calendar year. In some cases, the child may have evenly split his or her time between the parents, which means that the parent who spent the most on the child in the past year files the application.

For newly divorced parents thinking about their child's future schooling, who files for federal student aid may be an important factor in a child custody agreement.

Source: CBS, "How does divorce affect college financial aid?" Lynn O'Shaughnessy, Sept. 27, 2013

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