Financial aid rules for kids whose divorced parents have remarried

I don’t have any good answers to this but I’m remarried and so is my ex. We’ve given up on getting ANY financial aid. My ex retired early (disabled) and doesn’t work, I also don’t work. If we were both not remarried I believe our children would all be getting probably close to a free ride for college.

The government is really penalizing people for getting married again. With children who’ve already suffered with their parents splitting up, you’d think as a society we wouldn’t punish those parents that do go on to try to provide some stability with remarriage opposed to just shacking up. I don’t know any step parents that plan on contributing even $1 to their step kids college, its crazy. Now we have a split system in our family where half the kids get their choice of schools fully paid for and the other half has to go to state schools and take out loans.

With both of you not working, what is your joint annual income? What are your non-retirement assets? Based on what you have reported here, it certainly sounds like a child of yours should be eligible for need-based aid.

Colleges don’t expect that a stepparent will contribute even $1 to a stepchild’s education, but there is an expectation that a stepparent will contribute to household expenses.

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Our annual income is with our spouses that are working, they won’t count just the actual parents income.

Gotcha. I read your post too quickly. If I was a college financial aid officer (I’m not), I would be wondering why you were not working. If you and your husband can make ends meet on his income alone, anything you earn after taxes could go 100% to a child’s education.


You do realize there are so many reasons why someone is not working. Perhaps one spouse is on the road full time and the cost of hiring a nanny to get three kids to all of their activities doesn’t really leave that much money left over to make it worth while. Some some parents chose raising their children as their job. Some people have chronic illness that doesn’t allow them to work.


Of course I realize that. Please notice the wording I used: “I would be wondering why you were not working.” There are an unlimited number of explanations that will determine how a need-based financial aid offer might be affected.

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There are a lot of factors at play but it’s really not relevant, there are no parental work requirement for getting financial aid. The issue is that parents that remarry/marry another person not their child’s parent, they are held to a different standard than if they are just living together. Could be same exact everything but with that legal marriage fafsa is going to count the step parent as a contributing parent.

For institutional need-based aid, schools can and in cases that I am aware of definitely do take into consideration whether or not a parent is employed.

Yes, a contributing parent, as in contributing to the household expenses, because more than simply living together, marriage imparts a legal and ethical obligation to assist with household responsibilities. As I mentioned earlier, FAFSA makes no assumption that a stepparent is going to help pay for a stepchild’s college expenses.


These poor kids are up against a lot trying to go to school if what you’re saying is true and they can’t get need based income unless their parents are employed, this system is pretty broken.

If they’re considering the step parents income and the actual parent makes nothing and they say you get zero aid, they are obviously saying the step parents must pay for their stepkids college.
I’m not looking for answers, like I said we don’t even try to get ANY aid, I’m just commiserating with the OP and if anyone else finds this thread, don’t get legally married until the kids are out of college :joy:

i have a friend in a similar situation. When i was talking with her, I dont think she realized how little federal money is actually given to kids who are from low income families.

The feds pell grant is like around $6K a year on a sliding scale; and you have to be pretty low income to get that full amount. $6K or less where I live covers community college tuition, but not the full tuition of a state school; certainly no living costs.

the schools that meet needs are few and far in between; its hard to get into them; and from what we saw, the Net Price Calculator on their website showed a higher family expectation than what the federal EFC was. No easy answer to it all; but unless the stars really align, i don’t think living in poverty is the way for a kid to get $help for college. It’s just so hard to get into those colleges.


Go back and read what I wrote. This is not what I said.

You seem to be focusing on FAFSA. Let’s say that you did not remarry, have no income and your child has a FAFSA EFC of $0. The only difference in federal aid from what you say you are experiencing now is that your child would receive a full Pell grant ($6,495 for 2021-2022) and some of the federal direct loans would be subsidized. Again, looking just at federal aid, your children would not “all be getting probably close to a free ride for college” as you opine above.


That’s good to know, I see other families in our community getting like half or more of their tuition knocked off private or OOS schools but could be from the school itself.

That would cover in-state. Good information to know thanks.

Tuition and fees, perhaps, but not that plus room and board. The full Pell grant for 2021-2022 and the maximum first year federal direct loan come to $11,995. Any U.S. citizen or legal resident, regardless of financial status, can qualify for the federal direct loans.


People need to remember…the family contribution is just that….a FAMILY contribution. It considers all the adult family members…so if a parent remarries, the spouse is now a member of the family. As noted, presumably that spouse is contributing to household expenses…just like in a married situation for bio parents.


Except they are using 2 families income for 1 student. They are counting income from 4 adults for 1 child.

The ‘family’ should be the two actual parents and their children. Gonna have to agree to disagree here.

Next thing they’ll be asking for all grandparents income and assets… :wink:

Should financial aid policies encourage people to divorce to get more money? Should the step-parents funds go exclusively to nice vacations and dinners at five star restaurants and be completely disregarded as a source to cover the “normal” household expenses like rent and groceries?

What exactly are you proposing?


You can avoid the non-custodial parent (and spouse) financial requirement by applying to FAFSA only schools, or Profile schools that don’t require NCP financials, as another posted noted above.


Only if it’s a school that uses the CSS Profile and requires the non-custodial parent information.

If you have a strong student who could garner significant merit aid…look for that. The incomes of all those adults won’t factor into the merit award, and it’s guaranteed for four years in most cases as long as your student maintains a certain GPA.


Nope. The FAFSA only uses the parent (and the new spouse) the student lives with. CSS asks for info for ‘all’ the parents, but it then has a formula for using either only the parents (not step parents) or it considers that the money is supporting 2 households. FAFSA only considers the expenses of one household.

There isn’t a lot fair about it. I was a single parent with 2 kids in college. No other income or other people supporting us. I only got one ‘adult’ expense allowance like FICA considerations and the asset allowance for a single was about 1/4 that allowed for a married couple, even if only one parent had income. I had a household of 3, two in college and made the same as the guy I sat next to at work, but he had a wife and one kid (also a household of 3), but our allowance weren’t the same at all. My house for 3 people didn’t cost less, my utilities weren’t less, the food costs weren’t less.

Unfair, but that’s how it is.