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Applying for financial aid when parents are divorced

Financial aid is highly important when students in Delaware are preparing to go to college. However, when the parents are divorced, the process of applying for financial aid can become more complicated. Depending on the college the student is applying to, the financial aid process might include filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA, or the College Scholarship Service Profile, also known as the CSS, or both. The differing requirements for these two financial aid applications can lead to confusion.

Factors that can affect financial aid

When students whose parents are divorced are applying for financial aid, there are several factors that might be considered by either application which might affect the award the student receives. Some of these factors include:

• Which parent the student primarily lived with during the previous 12 months

• Which parent provides the majority of the child’s financial support

• The income of each parent

• If a parent has remarried, the stepparent’s financial information

The difference between the FAFSA and the CSS

While both applications are used to determine financial aid awards, they do not consider all the same information. The FAFSA mostly depends on the financial information of the household where the child lived for the majority of the last 12 months. On the other hand, the CSS reviews the financial information of both parents’ households, including any information from stepparents, even if the stepparent will not be providing financial support for the student’s college education.

Even if parents are getting divorced when the children are still small, they might want to plan ahead on how college costs will be covered as part of their divorce agreement. Some parents might not wish to make a solid commitment to paying for college, but parents might speak with a financial professional to help them understand their options.