FASFA Parent Reporting: Options for Divorced, Separated and Joint Filers

The college application process can be daunting, especially when it comes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). FASFA provides economic relief to college students based on parental income, however, the process raises questions for non-traditional families regarding how to report earned income and additional required information.

As the first step in the FASFA process, Kogut & Wilson details the options parents have when reporting their income whether divorced, separated or separated but filing jointly.

Divorced

FASFA defines divorced parents as those who have been legally divorced by a state. In deciding which divorced parent’s income to report, FASFA requires that the individual:

  • Report the parent’s income they resided with the most during the past 12 months OR
  • Report the parent’s income who provided the most financial support for the individual, if the individual has spent equal time with both parents

In both circumstances, the filing code would be “Divorced.”

If the divorced parents still live together, FASFA requires that individuals report both parents’ income as “Unmarried and both legal parents living together.”

For divorced parents who have remarried, FAFSA requires the individual’s parents to report the information of their current spouses.

Separated

For reporting purposes, FASFA considers separated parents as those who live in different residences, whether married or unmarried. Similarly to divorced parent reporting, FASFA requires that individuals:

  • Report the parent’s income they resided with the most during the past 12 months OR
  • Report the parent’s income who provided the most financial support for the individual, if the individual has spent equal time with both parents

In both of these situations, the filing code is “Separated.”

If the parents are separated but still cohabiting, then FASFA requires the individual to indicate the parental marital status as “married or remarried” and not “divorced or separated.” In this situation, the individual would report both parental incomes.

Separated & Filing Jointly

Individuals with separated parents who choose to file jointly are considered separated for filing purposes, as long as the parents do not cohabitate. In this case, FASFA requires that the individual:

  • Report the income of the custodial parent, which may or may not be the parent with primary custody

Determining the custodial parent depends on who the child spent more time with or, if the parents split time equally, who provided more financial support. The custodial parent retains the responsibility to determine their share of income and taxes paid on the joint return.

It is recommended that individuals in this position do not use the IRS data retrieval tool to transfer their parents joint tax information to FASFA, as they only need to report one parents income, not both.

Filing Independently

FASFA does not require students filing independently to provide parental income information. When filing independently, FASFA requires the individual to:

  • Report his/her own income information
  • Report his/her spouse’s income information if applicable

Individuals may file independently if they:

  • Will be 24 or older by January 1 of the school year for which they are applying
  • Are married or separated but not divorced
  • Are working toward a master’s or doctoral degree
  • Have children that receive more than half their support from them
  • Have dependents that live and receive half of their support from them
  • Are actively serving duty in the U.S. armed forces
  • Are a veteran of the U.S. armed forces
  • Have, at any time since age 13, been placed in foster care, were a ward of the state or both parents were deceased
  • Are emancipated minors or in a legal guardianship determined by a court
  • Are unaccompanied youth who are homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless

For more information concerning FASFA reporting requirements, contact a Kogut & Wilson family law attorney at (312) 565-4100.

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