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How Do Divorced Parents Apply for College Financial Aid?It is difficult to pay for a college education without some form of financial aid. Grants, scholarships, and loans can help cover the tens of thousands of dollars that it may cost to attend a four-year institution. Many students and their parents will use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see which sources of financial aid are available to them. When filling out the FAFSA form, parents must submit their recent financial records to determine which financial aid resources they qualify for. The application process is more complicated for parents who have divorced.

Who Fills Out the FAFSA Application?

Only one divorced parent will file the FAFSA application because only one of the parents will report their income. The Higher Education Act of 1965 includes a section explaining which parent must report their income if the parents are divorced or separated:

  • The filing parent is the one with whom the child has spent a majority of the time in the 12 months prior to the date of the application.
  • If the parenting time is exactly even, then the parent who contributed the most to child support in the past 12 months must fill out the form.
  • If neither parent contributed to child support in the past 12 months, then they will go back to the most recent calendar year in which child support was paid.
  • If parents have evenly split their child support costs, then the application reviewers may decide based on criteria such as which parent has a greater income.

What Counts as Income?

The filing parent must submit current federal income tax returns and records of any untaxed sources of income. Their income includes child support and spousal maintenance payments that they receive from the other parent. If the filing parent has remarried as of the date of the application, they must include their new spouse’s income.

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Should Divorcees Go Back to School?August is back-to-school time for children – as well as for some adults. If you have recently divorced, it may be imperative that you find a job that will allow you to support yourself. You may be required to do so if you are receiving spousal maintenance. Continuing education can help you start a new career or qualify for better-paying positions in your current career. However, it is also an investment of time and money that may not be worth it in some cases. Before starting on the path towards a degree or certification, you should consider your options.

Is College Necessary?

Taking college classes is expensive. Even being a part-time student at a community college can cost thousands of dollars per semester. You should explore whether you qualify for financial aid or scholarships. A court can include job training and continuing education expenses when awarding spousal maintenance. Before looking into payment options, you should evaluate whether attending college will improve your chances of getting a new job. You can ask a career counselor whether there are alternative ways to improve your skills and make yourself a better candidate.

Finding the Right Fit

If it has been years or decades since you attended school, going back will be a new experience. Most adults need to fit their school schedule around their work and family schedules. Colleges offer flexibility through classes scheduled on evenings and weekends and available online. When deciding between available colleges, you should ask yourself:

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Who Will Control Your Child's College Fund After Divorce?Divorce can disrupt the financial plans from your marriage, including savings you have accumulated for your child’s college expenses. If you have been making regular contributions to a college fund, you may worry about how you will continue to afford them on your individual income while also supporting yourself and your child. You should discuss your college savings plan with your spouse during your divorce negotiations, including who will control any existing savings and how to ensure that the money goes towards your child.

Types of Plans

Savings accounts from your marriage, such as a retirement plan, are considered marital assets because they are funded with marital income. Even if you keep control of the entire account after your divorce, you may need to compensate your spouse for half of the value of the account. A court may exclude your college savings account from your marital property if it classifies the account as a fund set aside for your children. The best way to do this is by creating a plan that is meant for college savings, such as a:

  • 529 savings plan;
  • Custodial 529;
  • Coverdell Education Savings Account; or
  • Trust in your child’s name.

Plan Control

If you created the college savings account before your divorce, you will need to decide which parent will be in charge of the account moving forward. Usually, one parent assumes total control of the account, though you can split the account and each receive half of its value. You can include conditions in your divorce agreement stating that:

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child college expenses in illinois, kane county child support lawyerThe subject of your child’s future college expenses and who will be responsible for them following the end of your marriage can be difficult to address, especially in the midst of an impending divorce. Whether you and your spouse discussed the funding of your child’s education early on in your marriage or did not discuss it at all, you may be wondering who will be responsible for paying tuition and other expenses once you are separated.

Who Pays for What?

While preparing for your child’s education may not be at the forefront of your mind during the divorce process, there are certain discussions you can have with your spouse and attorney to ensure your child’s education is secure when the time comes for them to attend college. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act works in favor of your children and their higher education. Revisions to Illinois state family law in 2016 enabled courts to order a parent to pay for the child’s college if the child is no longer living at home but attending school. Before either parent is ordered to contribute a certain amount to college expenses, however, there are multiple factors that the court takes into account:

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Illinois child custody attorney, Illinois family law attorneyIf you have been divorced for many years, you are probably fairly comfortable navigating the world of parenting after a divorce. If you are recently divorced, you might still be trying to determine what works and what does not work in this field. Co-parenting is a collaborative effort and the decisions you and your former partner make are generally driven by your child's academic, social, and medical needs. For many Illinois families, a young adult attending college after high school is one of the events that requires careful planning and cooperation between divorced parents.

Although your son or daughter is legally an adult at this age, it is not uncommon for you and your former partner to continue to support him or her financially. In fact, there may be a clause in your divorce settlement requiring one or both of you to contribute to his or her college expenses. But even if the financial aspect of your roles as parents in your child's college education is squared away, there are other issues you need to clarify. Who will drop your child off to campus? In which home will he or she stay during school breaks? How will expenses outside tuition and fees that your child incurs be handled?

Remember, Your Child Is an Adult

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