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Student Loans

How to File the FAFSA With Divorced Parents

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) determines college students’ eligibility for financial aid. Schools use the information students provide on the FAFSA to put together financial aid offers, which may include loans, grants, work-study funding, or other types of aid. You must complete the FAFSA each year you plan to seek aid. 

FAFSA rules require dependent students to provide information about their parents on their application. Divorce or separation—defined by FAFSA as parents who don’t live together—can affect what you’ll need to include when applying for aid. 

Read on to learn how to file the FAFSA with divorced parents and some common mistakes to avoid. 

How to file the FAFSA with divorced parents

For the 2024-25 academic year, the Department of Education determines which parent must report financial information on the FAFSA based on the level of financial support each one provides. 

If your parents are:

  • Divorced and not living together, the parent who provided more financial support during the last 12 months must provide financial information for the FAFSA. 
  • Divorced and not living together and both provide equal financial support, or they don’t support you financially, the parent with more income and assets must provide financial information for the FAFSA. 
  • Divorced but still living together, they must both provide information for the FAFSA. 

This is a change from the reporting rules for the 2023-24 academic year. Under the old rules, only the custodial parent was required to share their information for the FAFSA. The annual deadline for submitting the FAFSA is June 30.  

Here’s how to file the FAFSA with divorced parents, step by step:

  1. Determine which parent provided the most financial support over the previous 12 months or has more income/assets if each provided equal support. 
  2. Have the parent providing the information request an FSA ID, which they’ll use to fill out their part of the FAFSA. 
  3. Once they’ve obtained an FSA ID, the reporting parent fills out their portion of the FAFSA and submits it to the Department of Education. 
  4. You fill out your portion of the FAFSA and submit it using your FSA ID. 

Divorced parents who complete the FAFSA must consent to allow the IRS to transmit information from the federal tax returns to the Department of Education. Your parent must consent for you to be eligible for federal aid. 

Here’s the information divorced parents will need to share for the FAFSA:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Marital status
  • State of residence
  • Family size
  • Tax information
  • Income
  • Details about certain assets

FAFSA doesn’t ask for copies of a divorce decree or separation agreement. Your school’s financial aid office may, however, ask for those documents to verify the information you and your parents provide. 

Students and parents must answer questions about income, assets, and financial support truthfully. If you’re in doubt about how to answer FAFSA questions you can reach out to the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-­800-­4­‐FED AID (1-800-433-3243) for help. 

How to file the FAFSA with separated parents 

Filing the FAFSA with separated parents isn’t much different from filing with divorced parents. The main distinction FAFSA makes when determining which parent must provide information is whether your parents live together or not.

  • If your parents are separated and don’t live together but are still legally married, the parent who provided the most financial support over the past 12 months would report their information. 
  • If your parents are separated and don’t live together and both provide equal support to you or don’t provide support at all, the one with more income and assets would report their information to FAFSA. 
  • If your parents are separated and still live together, they’re still considered to be married for FAFSA purposes, meaning you’ll need to provide information for both of them. 

The steps for filing your FAFSA with a separated parent and the details they’ll need to share are the same as the ones outlined for divorced parents. They’ll need to get an FSA ID and consent to allow the IRS to transfer their tax data to make you eligible for aid. 

What if your parents were never married? Who reports to FAFSA then? Again, it depends on whether they live together or not. 

  • If they live together, both parents must report financial information for FAFSA. 
  • If they don’t live together, the parent who provided the most financial support over the last 12 months would report. 

The main thing to remember about how to file the FAFSA with divorced parents (or separated or never married parents) is that the Department of Education—not you or your parents—decides who must share their information. 

How does having divorced parents affect other financial aid? 

Financial aid eligibility is based on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), year in school, enrollment status, and cost of attendance. Your EFC calculation is based on your family’s:

  • Taxed and untaxed income
  • Assets
  • Benefits, such as unemployment compensation or Social Security benefits

Not that starting with the 2024-2025 FAFSA, EFC is being replaced with the Student Aid Index.

Whether having divorced parents works for you or against you when completing the FAFSA can depend on the financial situation of the reporting parent. If the parent who provides most of your financial support has a lower income and fewer assets than the non-supporting parent, that could help you qualify for more aid. 

On the other hand, if your supporting parent has a higher income or more assets, you may qualify for less financial aid. If you’re looking into private student loans and one of your parents is cosigning, lenders may be more concerned with both of your credit scores than income or assets to determine approval. 

Consider asking a grandparent to be cosigner if both parents are required to be on FAFSA.

Kyle Ryan


Mistakes to avoid 

Getting something wrong on the FAFSA could delay your application or result in you qualifying for less aid than you’re entitled to. Here are some of the biggest mistakes to avoid when filing the FAFSA with divorced or separated parents. 

  • Listing parental marital status incorrectly
  • Failing to disclose information about a stepparent if your divorced parent has remarried
  • Underreporting income or assets
  • Failing to list both parents if they still live together, even if divorced or separated

Regarding stepparents, you must provide their information if they’re legally married to your formerly divorced parent. A stepparent who adopts you is considered to be your parent for FAFSA purposes. 

The FAFSA system is designed to catch honest mistakes, down to small ones like a missing digit or decimal point. Remember that deliberately including inaccurate information on the FAFSA is considered fraud and is punishable by fines and/or jail time. 

The most common mistakes made on the FAFSA include confusing where to put parent vs. borrower information, not knowing what to include as income, and correctly determining income tax.

Kyle Ryan


Resources for assistance 

Completing the FAFSA with divorced or separated parents can be overwhelming if you’re not sure what to include. If you need help or have questions about financial aid, here are some valuable resources you can turn to: 

If you’ve been approved for federal aid but it’s not enough to cover your education costs, your school’s financial aid office might be able to help you with a tuition payment plan or direct you to scholarships you can apply to. There may be school-based loans or emergency funding that you might be eligible for as well. 

You may also want to explore private student loan options if you’ve exhausted your federal aid. Private student loan lenders typically don’t require the FAFSA to apply. Divorced and separated parents can cosign, which may help you qualify for a larger loan amount. 


What if my parents are divorced but live together?

If your divorced parents live together, handle their finances in the FAFSA as married. You should include the financial information of both parents. Their combined incomes might affect your eligibility for certain types of financial aid.

Which parent’s information do I include if my parents are divorced or separated?

When your parents are divorced or separated, the FAFSA considers the income of the “custodial parent.” This parent is the one you’ve lived with the most during the past 12 months. If the time spent with both parents is equal, provide the information of the parent who has offered more financial support.

How do I handle stepparents’ financial information on the FAFSA?

A stepparent who has married your custodial parent must also have their financial information included on the FAFSA. It should be considered part of the household’s financial status, regardless of prenuptial agreements.

What should I do if my financial situation changes after submitting the FAFSA?

If your financial situation changes after you complete the FAFSA, contact your school’s financial aid office. Explain the circumstances and provide an estimate of your changed income. This enables the office to adjust your aid package accordingly.

Can I change the parent information on the FAFSA if my living situation changes?

If your living situation changes, you can update your FAFSA. You have the right to change the parental data provided on the FAFSA, reflecting the parent you now live with or who provides more support.

How does remarriage affect my FAFSA application?

If your custodial parent remarries, the new spouse’s financial information must be included on the FAFSA. This can affect your eligibility for financial aid because it alters the household income.

What if I have no contact with one of my parents?

In cases where you have no contact with one parent, you can note this on your FAFSA. You may need to provide a written explanation to your school’s financial aid office. Office personnel can guide you on how your application will be evaluated based on the available parent’s financial data.