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Articles / Applying to College / Will Separated Dad's Income Be Counted at FinAid Time?

Will Separated Dad's Income Be Counted at FinAid Time?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | June 2, 2012

Question: My ex and I have been separated for 9 years but have never gotten divorced. My ex pays child support, but I have full legal and physical custody. My income is $40,000 and by the time our son starts college, I expect my ex to be retired, relying on a substantial pension and 401 (k). Will his income and assets be included on the FAFSA? Or only mine?

When it comes to money matters, “The Dean" is on thin ice. So I forwarded your question to my finaid guru (Ann C. Playe, former associate director of admission and financial aid at Smith College). I knew that Ann would have encountered other families in similar straits to yours. (In fact, I often insist that financial aid officers are a lot like doctors. That is, after a while, there's no condition they haven't seen. ;) )

Here's what Ann said:

If they are separated and not divorced, FAFSA-only schools will still look at both parents. But if they have actual separation documentation, the financial aid officer may exercise professional judgment and allow expenses for the maintenance of two households.

In other words, you can expect your ex-husband's assets and retirement earnings to be evaluated as part of your son's needs-assessment process, but you should also write a detailed letter to all of his target colleges and explain the actual circumstances.

Note also that if your son's list includes any of the many collegesthat use the CSS Profile form (or their own similar form), they will consider your husband's assets and income anyway, even if you had gotten officially divorced.

(posted 6/2/2012)

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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