If you divorced while your child was under age 18 and you were granted sole physical custody of your child, it is likely that your child’s other parent was ordered to pay child support.
Parents who pay child support contribute to the costs of raising a child. These costs include meeting a child’s basic needs and, if agreed upon, other expenses such as the costs of extracurricular activities and education costs.
However, child support generally ends when a child turns 18 or graduates from high school. This can be problematic if you want to help pay for your child’s continuing expenses, such as college tuition. Is there any way you can have your child’s other parent contribute to your child’s college expenses?
Child support and college expenses
Your child’s other parent has no obligation to contribute to your child’s post-high school education, absent an agreement stating otherwise. Child support obligations generally ends when a child turns 18 or graduates high school, whichever happens first.
Child custody and FAFSA
While a parent who pays child support need not pay for college, your child custody arrangements with that parent can help or hurt your child’s eligibility for federal financial aid.
When applying for college, your child will submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine if they qualify for federal loans or grants for higher education.
Generally, eligibility is based on their parent’s income. If a parent has a lower income, they will qualify for more aid than a parent who earns a higher income.
If you are divorced, your child’s eligibility for FAFSA aid is based on the income of the parent with whom the child lives more than 50% of the time.
If your child lives with you and your ex 50% of the time equally, FAFSA eligibility will be based on the income of the parent who earns the most.
Modifying child custody for financial aid purposes
You may want your child to live with the parent with the lowest income prior to the time your child needs to submit their FAFSA paperwork. This may mean modifying your child custody arrangements.
Still, any child custody modifications must be based on the child’s best interests. It can help if both parents agree on the modifications.
And you and your child’s other parent can always agree out of court to contribute to your child’s higher education expenses. This way, you can both help pay for your child’s higher education, even if your child does not qualify for as much federal financial aid as you had hoped.