Navigating the student FAFSA application process is already a major task, but for students with divorced parents and the loss of one parent, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can feel like an overwhelming challenge.
How to Fill Out the Student FAFSA Form
“Mom….what do I mark for this question? Are you divorced or widowed?” My son just graduated and is headed off for college in the fall. I’ve got another one headed back to college this fall after taking a gap year. I’ve gotten this question twice already from them. This question on their student FAFSA form trips them up! They are never sure what they should mark. But filling out the student FAFSA form is an important graduation piece for any student. If you know what to mark.
Understanding the Student FAFSA and its importance for college
Completing the FAFSA is a crucial step in securing financial aid for college. It determines your eligibility for federal grants, loans, and work-study programs, as well as state and institutional aid. By providing detailed information about your family’s financial situation, the FAFSA helps colleges and universities assess your need for financial assistance. However, for students with divorced parents and the loss of one parent, the process can be complicated.
Challenges faced by students with divorced parents and the loss of one parents
One of my children’s financial aid advisors at the college called my child to talk about their application.
“You marked your parents as divorced, but didn’t provide your other parents information.”
“Yeah….that’s because my parent passed away several years ago.”
“Oh my gosh, I am soooo sorry.”
Does this story sound familiar to you? Students with divorced parents and the loss of one parent often face additional hurdles when completing the FAFSA. One of the main challenges is accurately reporting parental information.
How to accurately report
The first thing I would say to to do is make sure you double check with the FAFSA.gov website on your specific situation. I’ve included some situations that you might fall under but it’s always good to double check! I tried to ask questions via the FAFSA online chat feature, but it didn’t give me much help. So I had to call and was so happy I wasn’t having to wait on hold longer than a couple minutes before talking to an agent.
Gather Necessary Documentation
To successfully complete the FAFSA, you will need certain documents and information readily available. These include:
1. Social Security Numbers for the student and parent(s), if applicable.
2. Federal income tax returns, W-2 forms, and other records of money earned for both parents (including the deceased parent, if applicable).
3. Records of untaxed income, such as child support received or payments made, veterans’ benefits, or other untaxed income sources.
4. Information on assets, such as bank account balances, investments, and real estate (excluding the family’s primary residence).
5. Documentation of any special circumstances, such as medical expenses or loss of employment (if applicable).
Filling out the FAFSA
What should you mark on the FAFSA. It kind of just depends on what your situation is right now. But always make sure you place a call to FAFSA to verify you’re filling out your forms correctly before you hit submit!
- Parents divorced then both parents pass away: Did you have a legal guardian or stepparent that took over your care after your parents passed away? You may have to include their income if applicable on the FAFSA form. If you were on your own after with no financial assistance or help after your parents passed away, you may be able to include your income only on the FAFSA.
- Parents divorced then one parent passes away: Who do you as a student spend 50% of your time or more with? If it’s one parent, that parent’s income will be included on the FAFSA. If it’s a parent and stepparent, both their incomes may need to be included.
- You do not spend 50% or more time with remaining parent: If your parents divorced and one of your parents passed away but you do not live 50% of your time or more with them, you will want to consult the FAFSA.gov customer service. They will ask some questions and help you pick the right situation for you.
On the FAFSA student form, do you include the deceased parents income?
In the case where a student’s parents were divorced and one parent has passed away, the student should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by providing information about the custodial parent. (The parent they live with 50% or more of their time with). The custodial parent is the parent with whom the student lived the most during the past 12 months. If the student did not live with one parent more than the other, the custodial parent may be the parent who provided more financial support during that time.
When filling out the FAFSA, the student should only include the income and information of the custodial parent and their current spouse (if applicable). The deceased parent’s information should not be included. However, if the custodial parent has remarried, the income and information of the stepparent should be included. There might also be some special circumstances, like if the ex died owing child support.
Let me know how the college application process is going for you and your family!
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