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How do I fill in my financial aid forms if my parents are half separated half not?

yunakoyunako 2 replies3 threads New Member
My parents have not filed for a legal separation but they haven't lived together for the past four years and I'm pretty sure they don't love each other anymore. Does that count as separated for FASFA and CSS? My dad is the only one with a job and he pays for 98% of my expenses, so I guess that counts as child support?

The problem is my parents themselves have never clarified what their marital status is. They probably haven't documented "how much child support has dad paid" and other details the forms need. And most importantly, I'm afraid of asking for clarification because they will most definitely explode, accuse each other, and divorce will become even more likely. It's a can of worms we've all avoided so it just looks like they're married on the outside and simply living in different countries due to "work."

I want to approaching them about this as much as possible, so I would rather fill them in as married on both forms if there will be no difference in the amount of financial aid given. If there is a big difference between married and separated, I would risk talking to them and ruin their relationship a bit more so we could save some money.
13 replies
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Replies to: How do I fill in my financial aid forms if my parents are half separated half not?

  • thumper1thumper1 77112 replies3427 threads Senior Member
    Who do you live with?
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7447 replies76 threads Senior Member
    I'm sorry you are in the middle of this.

    If they aren't legally separated they count as still married.

    Also, you appear to be a senior, getting close to results? if so you are *super* late getting that in. email both your parents (in the same email, imo) with the FAFSA & CSS links and an 'this is urgent for me to get college funding for next year' note.

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  • BelknapPointBelknapPoint 4839 replies19 threads Senior Member
    edited February 25
    If they aren't legally separated they count as still married.

    The parents don't have to be a "legally" separated to be considered separated for FAFSA purposes.

    For FAFSA purposes, your married parents are separated if they are considered legally separated by a state, or if they are legally married but have chosen to live separate lives, including living in separate households, as though they were not married.

    https://studentaid.gov/apply-for-aid/fafsa/filling-out/parent-info#divorced-separated-living-apart
    edited February 25
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7447 replies76 threads Senior Member
    Thanks for the info, @BelknapPoint.

    So, OP, what matters is whether your parents want to file as 'separated' or not....and I'll stick with the suggestion to email them both, together, asking them to do it whatever way they want.
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  • thumper1thumper1 77112 replies3427 threads Senior Member
    Who do you live with most????
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  • yunakoyunako 2 replies3 threads New Member
    I live with my mother more, but the only thing I need to know is if there is a difference in amount of aid given if my parents are separated or married.
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  • yunakoyunako 2 replies3 threads New Member
    I meant to say “avoid approaching them as much as possible” so I guess the only info I need is is there a difference between amount of aid given.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 30018 replies59 threads Senior Member
    Your parents are separated for FAFSA purposes, and because you live with your mother more than your father, she is your custodial parent whose finances need to be reported on FAFSA along with any child support your father gives her and any payments he makes to and on your behalf. Those are the rules in place.

    Since the FAFSA Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is largely income driven, that one of your parents’ finances are not fully reported, will likely result in a lower EFC. That means there is likely potential for being eligible for more financial aid.

    However, hardly any schools guarantee to meet full need as defined by FAFSA formulas, and so your college financial need may not be met. If you are looking at going away to schools that cost more than what are government entitlements (PELL Grant , Direct Loan and possibly some state money depending upon your state), you are highly unlikely to get financial aid that meets full need.

    The schools that are more to meet full need or close to it tend to require an additional aid form, the CSS PROFILE, and in nearly all cases require the finances of both parents to be reported.

    You will need to get your mother’s income tax information to report on FAFSA for 2018, for starters , if you are applying for aid for the 2020-21 School year, and for 2019 for the 2021-22 School Year. You’ll also need to know what her assets are as of the date you complete the form. If your parents have been filing their federal taxes jointly, it’s going to take work on your mothers part to separate out her Income. Jointly owned assets are also going to have to be assessed. There is no avoiding approaching your mother directly on this as she is going to have to provide detailed financial information and sign the FAFSA. She is also likely going to have to give the schools access to her IRS filings as they often verify those numbers.

    In order to get an idea how much schools expect you to pay, using each school’s Net PRice Calculator is usually more accurate than a FAFSA EFC. If PROFILE comes into play, the accuracy will like be thrown off at schools that need both parents’ financials.

    It is essential that you find out what your parents are willing and able to pay. That and how much schools appear to be willing to give you are vital pieces of information. Most students are limited by finances in picking
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  • thumper1thumper1 77112 replies3427 threads Senior Member
    edited February 26
    I live with my mother more, but the only thing I need to know is if there is a difference in amount of aid given if my parents are separated or married.

    The answer is...it depends.

    How do your parents file their U.S. federal tax returns here? While tax filing status doesn’t matter for financial aid purposes, if they are filing as married...my guess is you need to do your financial aid forms as MARRIED.

    You say your dad lives in a different country? And has done so for four years? Is he a U.S. citizen and does he file U.S. tax returns?

    1. If they are not considering themselves married... if you live with your mom more than 1/2 the time, it’s very possible her income and assets should be the only ones listed on your FAFSA form. BUT a lot of this depends on why your parents are separated. If they never intend to live together again as hand and wife, they would be separated for FAFSA purposes.

    2. BUT...most colleges don’t meet full need for all accepted students. So, even if your mom has $0 in income, that would only guarantee you the amount of Pell Grant to which you are entitled. And the Direct Loan.

    3. If your mom is the only parent needing to be listed, and her income is really $0, be prepared to be selected for verification. The colleges will justifiably want to know how you are paying your day to day living expenses with $0 income...so be prepared to document that.

    4. Most colleges that meet full need for all also use the CSS Profile or their own financial aid form to get non-custodial parent information. So for those colleges, your mom would complete the Profile and your dad the non-custodial parent form. These schools want ALL of the info.

    5. Does your mom own her home...what about your dad? IF they are deemed married, then one of those home’s equity would be listed as an asset.

    Here is THE most important question for you to get answered. What amount of money are your parents willing and able to pay annually for you to attend college? That is very important for you to know.

    What are your SAT or ACT, and your GPA? Would you qualify for substantial merit aid someplace.
    edited February 26
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  • thumper1thumper1 77112 replies3427 threads Senior Member
    P.S. the net price calculators might not be accurate in this situation...where it appears the parent earning the income is doing this in another country.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7447 replies76 threads Senior Member
    I hear your reluctance to approach your parents & have this conversation- but it is their conversation to have. That’s why I am suggesting you write a joint email to both of them, outlining what needs to be done and asking them for their help. There’s what they can pay- and what they will pay. And it’s their job to figure out the answer to both questions.
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  • thumper1thumper1 77112 replies3427 threads Senior Member
    edited February 26
    You live with your mom, right? Frankly, I think you need to have a face to face conversation with her about college, college costs, and the paying for college.

    As a parent, I would have been a bit annoyed if the kids who lived with me sent me an email.
    edited February 26
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  • happymomof1happymomof1 30166 replies182 threads Senior Member
    "My dad is the only one with a job and he pays for 98% of my expenses, so I guess that counts as child support?"

    If your mother has no (or very little) income of her own, and you file the FAFSA that way, then you are going to get verified to find out how you and she afford to live. So yes, you will need to be able to include a figure for the child support.

    Have you asked both of your parents how much they are truly ready, willing, and able to commit to pay for your education? That is the figure you need to start with. When you have that number, you will be able to start looking for places that fit in your budget.
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