Financial aid for child of divorced parents

My ex-husband and I are divorced. I have full custody & he hasn’t seen the kids in 5 years. He pays what he is required to by the courts, but not a penny more, and has made it clear he’s not contributing to college. So ok. I am starting to look at financial aid paperwork now, and I see that some colleges want to see his tax info also. I have no access to that. How do I handle that? And is there a shortcut to finding out which colleges only want to see my financials (and not his) other than checking individually?

You will need to look at each college financial aid website to see what they require…the required submissions are clearly listed.

Colleges that use only the FAFSA will not request your former husband’s financial info this year…just yours. BUT for the 2023-24 academic year (@kelsmom is that the year) the parent who provides the most support will be listed on the fafsa regardless of where the child resides.

But if you are the primary supporter of your kids, it will still be you only on the FAFSA. However, all child support payments are included on the FAFSA (IIRC, that will also change and those will no longer be reported when the changes happen).

You have a few good options.

  1. If your student is academically strong with good SAT or ACT scores and GPA, you might want to start looking for colleges where merit aid awards are probable or guaranteed. These will not take anyone’s finances into consideration.

  2. Look for colleges where only your finances will be considered. Most of these do not guarantee to meet full need for all accepted students, but you won’t have to deal with the other parent finances.

  3. If your child is applying to colleges that use the CSS Profile, look for schools that do NOT require the non-custodial parent form. These schools would use only your financials.

Re: the Profile schools that DO require the other parent financial information…you would complete the Profile and submit it. The non-custodial parent would complete the non-custodial parent form. You would not see the other parent info, and they would not see yours. So…you wouldn’t get those financials from the other parent…they would complete the form without you being involved at all.

Most important…you need to figure out your college financial annual budget. What can you contribute annually? Be realistic. There will be a way for your child to attend college…but your budget needs to be considered.


The advice from @thumper1 is spot-on.

Thank you! That is very helpful.

CSS Profile Participating Institutions and Programs (

Use the table on this website to identify the schools that require financial information from non-custodial parents in order to award institutional need-based aid. In some circumstances, waivers may be available for this requirement, but if you are able to communicate with your ex-husband, the chances of getting a waiver request approved go way down (unless it’s easy to get a message to your ex because you know where he is and he’s not going anywhere anytime soon for certain unpleasant reasons; for instance, if he’s incarcerated).

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Just remember that the whole FAFSA custodial parent thing will be changing for the 2023-24 academic year. It will no longer be the parent with whom the child resides most who will be listed on the FAFSA…it will be the parent who provides the majority of the support.

This parent doesn’t need to be concerned about that change if this parent is providing the bulk of the support.

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I am providing the bulk of the support.

Good! Than the new guidelines will not affect you. You will continue to be the custodial parent for tax purposes.

What year in HS is your student? Folks here are very helpful…and if she has a SAT or ACT, and a GPA…maybe folks can give you some helpful merit suggestions!

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That could get uglier for some students – what if the student lives with a poor parent, but most of that household’s money comes from the richer other parent, and that other parent is the uncooperative one for college financial aid forms? Then the student may not be able to get need-based financial aid even at custodial-parent-only colleges.

This change hasn’t happened yet. And it won’t affect this poster because she provides the majority of the support.

She is in 11th grade. She has a very good GPA, around 4.5. No SATs or ACTs due to Covid. Not sure if we should try to take them this summer or just go without since a lot of colleges seem to be waiving them. (Suggestions on that appreciated too!) Obviously, we are late to the party on figuring out the college thing and trying to catch up now…

Any geographic preferences?

I think she should try to take the tests. She could get a terrific score…and it might benefit her. If not, she goes test optional.

University of Alabama is not using the standardized tests and is still awarding their very fine merit aid. Worth checking.

Other schools to check are University of New Mexico (@WayOutWestMom are SAT or ACT required now for their scholarships).

Look at for schools that have been test optional for a while. You might find something there.

Look at the Colleges that Change Lives list. Some have great merit aid….but I don’t think they are test optional.

Look at your public universities, and look at honors colleges within them. Your state might have a great option.

We’re in VA, so we have some good public options. It looks like I would have to pay full list price for any of them, unfortunately. My daughter, being a teenager, would like to find some options on the other side of the country as well…

I note that many state schools will look only at the custodial/main support parent.

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University of New Mexico has waived the requirement for ACT/SAT scores for students applying for admission for fall 2021/spring 2022. No decision yet about the 2022-23 academic year.

It appears that some scholarships programs have waived the SAT/ACT requirement.

The LUE and LUE Plus Scholarships (like WUE, but for residents of most Eastern states) will accept a GPA in lieu of a SAT/ACT score.

LUE Plus requires a 3.0 GPA ( calculated using unweighted grades and only core academic classes).

LUE Plus gives in-state tuition rates.

Instate tuition, fees, housing and meals at UNM costs about $19K/year

OP- a high score on a standardized test will NEVER hurt you, and in many cases, can help (both in admissions as well as in merit aid). So I’d be inclined to encourage taking the tests- not with insane prep, but with a couple of timed practices to get familiar with the questions, how the answers are worded, etc.

What is your D interested in studying?

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Virginia has a wonderful selection of public universities. Many folks would be thrilled to attend any number of them at the instate cost.

You say that you would be “unfortunately” full pay at these instate colleges. How much CAN you pay annually?


Keep in mind that OOS schools will most likely cost more than in state, even with a lot of merit. Definitely have her take the ACT/SAT, test optional isn’t test blind. A student with similar stats with a great score will be accepted over a student with no test scores.