Requesting Guidance - $0 Financial Aid Received (Hostile Co-Parent Situation)

My child received an offer of admissions at an independent school. I was thrilled as the admissions decision represented a great opportunity for my child to broaden their academic horizons. My happiness was deflated when I received further details on the financial aid award: $0. Why? Because my child’s father refused to submit his financial aid documentation. Note, I submitted my documentation.

In brief, it’s a hostile co-parenting situation that has required legal intervention. I tried to be proactive about the situation and researched NAIS guidance (see below for link). Per their guidance, I asked if the school would accept a letter from my lawyer attesting to the hostile co-parent relationship. The answer was no.

I’m pursuing a motion to compel for the father to submit his financial aid documentation and I’m hoping a judge can intervene. On my salary alone ($45K/year), I cannot afford to pay the tuition.

If there are any fellow parents who are familiar with the situation or can offer guidance on paths we can pursue re: financial aid, please let me know. I would greatly appreciate it.

NAIS Guidance:
I’m not able to include a link, but you can search for NAIS Developing a Financial Aid Policy for Divorced and Separated Parents

I’ve had two friends in this situation. One was a prestigious school and they would not budge. Court would not order it. Child stayed in public school.

In another it was a not very expensive Catholic school. They initially pushed for both tax forms but then relented. Accepted a birth certificate with no father listed. No custody order. No child support. She was active in the church.

I’m a kid, and don’t know anything about this stuff, but I wanted to pop in and say good luck to you and kiddo. I hope this issue gets sort out.

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What does the court order say about who makes choices about education and who pays for it?

I would take dads refusal to submit financials as his rejection of the school. He may be within his legal rights to do that.

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NAIS Developing a Financial Aid Policy Divorced and Separated Parents

It is possible that the court order doesn’t address it at all.

Mine doesn’t; we separated when our child was a toddler, and the divorce was finalized before my child entered kindergarten. I have not sought to modify it; it is a case of letting sleeping dogs lie.

Thankfully, my ex did apparently fill out the SSS forms. My child’s school is aware of the situation.

I think more relevant: what is the father’s involvement in the child’s life? Does he have a healthy relationship with his child? Has he been paying child support regularly?

The NAIS policies are a guideline. Schools do have some discretion.

Anecdotally, my best friend in high school had a father that was determined not to support his 3 children. My friend’s mother would go every year and plead her case in order to get FA.

(My niece had a similar problem in college. Every year, she was unsure of whether she’d be able to attend until August, when her father would submit his paperwork. She’s happily graduated and changed her surname.)

Yes, you can go to court… But I suspect that if you were candid in your parent statement and the school is unwilling to accept proof of the problem, that maybe this school’s values are not compatible with yours. You might want to research whether there are other local options that respect, understand, and are supportive of children in complex situations such as yours.

If the father has joint legal custody and it is not listed that mother has sole decision making with education, father does not have to submit Financials for a BS application.

My ex and I are split and had disagreements about school choice so I understand the frustration. In my case, the court order now stands that the children are to remain in their public school district.

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"Happy families are all alike; unhappy families… " , Anna Karenina.

(Or, if it were amicable, we’d still be married.)

Mom can try to legally compel Dad to fill out the forms. However, she may find, even if successful, that the ruling doesn’t come in time for the next school year (courts are backlogged where I am, due to Covid, and this certainly isn’t an “emergency”), or that the school has already allocated all its budgeted FA.

P.S. I realize, @KT1124 , that from your perspective this is an emergency, but from the court’s perspective, it’s not. I understand your frustration, but while it might be in the “best interest of the child” to go to this school, their well being is probably not at risk if they don’t.

Thank you to those who have replied.

To clarify, I am not requesting legal guidance at all. I will not delve to offer further details of my circumstances.

My request for guidance is towards the financial aid aspect. I am interested in hearing from those that have encountered or have themselves experienced similar circumstances. I am curious to learn about how they advocated for a particular outcome directly with a school.

Thanks again.

You will have the same issue in four years when you find out that many colleges require cooperation from both divorced parents (CSS Noncustodial Profile is the most common form required for this purpose).

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Without a legal court order, you cannot force the father to comply sadly. While you don’t want legal advice, a clear court order in regards to schooling and finances will help.

For the school, you would have to show legal paperwork declaring you the sole decision-maker in regards to school choice or that dad has no legal financial responsibilities for school costs. The school needs to protect itself financially.

I can tell you that schools do not want to get in the middle of family court matters. Your lawyer sent a letter trying to explain your situation however if that is not sufficient, you will have to accept that they will not give financial aid and make your choice based on that.

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And this varies by school; there is some wiggle room. However a school may (or may not) choose to exercise that wiggle room.

You have communicated directly with the school. Whoever you spoke to isn’t budging. There may be other people in the administration who might be inclined to be more helpful. In a normal year, I’d say make an appointment and go there in person.

Again, in spite of the perceived opportunity this is, it might not be a good fit for your household.

He is aware that you would not have access to his financial information, right?

I know that the only reason my ex filled out the forms was that my kid nagged and lobbied him for months. (Kid was nagging me too, every step of the way.)

The short answer is, you are solely responsible for private school tuition, and any help the high school provides is discretionary. Secondary schools very rarely waive consideration of both parents’ incomes, and this school appears unwilling to do so. There is no point in pursuing this at the desired school.

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Sadly, it’s impossible for schools to determine who is truly not able to get the data and who is not providing it to gain advantage ( and get more FA). With half the households in the US experiencing a divorce, it’s a huge issue. I dealt with this while in college. It’s not easy and the kid usually gets the short end of the stick. If people were all reasonable, the world would look a lot different.

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Amen!

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