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CarrieGyrl
CarrieGyrl asks:
Q:

I am a single mother, never married, "Custodial Parent" was never defined; son lives equally w/ father. How does he file for Financial Aide-college?

My son is a high school freshman.  I never married his father. My son used to live more with me, now he lives equally with his father (same town) and the father's new wife in their home, alternating weeks.  I receive NO child support, per a "deal" I made so he would drop his full physical custody suit against me.
Court docs say we are to retain equal 50% joint physical custody.
How does my son fill out financial aide forms for college?  My income is less as I am single, I only own a small condo and have only $250 in a small savings account. I have no money for my son to go to college.
Does my son HAVE to use his father's and stepmother's income on his application?  Or can he use ONLY mine?  Mine would make more sense as my assets are less.  Does my son HAVE to live with me full time in my home?  I think he wants to go live full time with his father & stepmother when he turns 18. That will hurt his chances at being able to get money to go to college.
Can a court force me to somehow pay for half my son's tuition? I cannot possibly do that. I currently still have about $17,000 of credit card debt from attorney's fees (from the custody suit). I paid my attorney with six credit cards. I am current on my mortgage, car payment and all my credit cards, but have no savings.
In Topics: Financial planning for college, Getting ready for college, Single parent families
> 60 days ago

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Expert

ShirleyCressDudley
Jan 12, 2010
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What the Expert Says:

Hi,
It's tough being a single mom, but I can tell you want to do what's best for your son.  First- No one can force you to pay for your child's tuition, don't worry about this.  Your son may need to work part time to attend school, though.

You and you son can apply for financial aid with the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid.)  Based on your information (and since you're his mom) I would list you as the custodial parent.

There is a question that will ask if you have any written agreement for his father to help with college.  (Answer is no.)  The FAFSA will ask about your savings and you can correctly answer zero. The application will also ask how much you have saved for his college, and you can also correctly answer zero.

The application will be based on your income only.  Some colleges ask for students to fill out another application on the college board site. (CSS profile.) If he is asked- this application will ask for his dad to fill out his financial information.  The FAFSA may also ask for his dad to complete part of the application. (This is completely confidential- you can't see his information, and he can't see your information.)  

Don't worry, not having money saved for college is O.K.  The FAFSA will estimate how much it believes you can pay, yearly for your son's education.  (Expected Family Contribution.)  There will be grants, loans and also scholarships offered to your son (scholarships if his grades are good.)

Don't rule out college until you have completed the FAFSA.  You will have an estimate of how much you will have to pay, immediately, after completing the application.  If it's more than you can afford- you may want to consider advising your son to enroll in a community college for 2 years and then transferring to a 4 year school.

Go to the website listed below and complete the application as soon as possible. The earliest you can complete it is January 1st of each year.  The earlier you submit the application, the better chance you have at government aid and college scholarships.

Good luck, and good for you for raising a son that values education!

Kindest Regards,
Shirley

Shirley Cress Dudley, MA LPC
Founder of The Blended and Step Family Resource Center
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Additional Answers (5)

dgraab
dgraab , Parent writes:
Hi, In addition to the excellent guidance you received from JustAsk Expert, Shirley Cress Dudley, MA LPC, here are some additional resources you may also find helpful...

College Hub
http://www.education.com/special-edition/college-and-beyond/

College Financial Planning
http://www.education.com/topic/college-financial-planning/

Going to College
http://www.education.com/topic/college-transition/

The Parent's Guide to High School
http://www.education.com/grade/high-school/

Teen Years
http://www.education.com/age/teen-years/

Good luck!
> 60 days ago

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CarrieGyrl
CarrieGyrl writes:
First,  Thank you for the helpful information.  I do want to mention that you are incorrect on one point.  A judge CAN make a parent pay for the college tuition for their child. I personally know 6 people who have court orders to pay a percentage of the tution (50% from each parent).  Yes, these are divorced people.  Motions were filed for this, or this stipulation was part of the original property settlement agreement.  A good friend of mine, Julie, works 7 days a week (2 jobs) to pay the required college tution ordered by Family Court, plus child support to her ex husband (he has custodial custody of their daughter).
My good friend Jim pays for two of his daughter's college tution that student loans did not cover, required by the court, plus child support, all of their medical, dental insurance, half of all medical bills, AND ALL of their car insurance!!  Jim is currently only working part -time (he was laid off) and his parents pay his rent on his apt. so he won't go to jail for non-payment of child support.  

Based on my income (which is not too bad) I know any college will require me to pay something.  The EFC figure will be too high, even with my income.  A parent has to make a horribly low salary of $25,000 - $30,000 (my guess) for their child to receive a grant or even a loan.   However, it is true I do not have any savings due to paying back huge monthly payments to all the 8 credit cards I had to use to pay my lawyer for the custody case to keep 50% custody of my son. I am finally down to about $16,700 in the debt I owe, and have just been re-called back to my second job so until / unless they lay me off AGAIN - (I get laid off from there a lot)  I can continue making large monthly payments. In about 3 years I should have the credit cards paid off, then I can finish paying off my car, but by then my son will be college age.

But yes, his father CAN file a motion to make me pay half of our son's college.  Yes, he can.  Since there is no paper saying I have "custody" of our son, I think the colleges may require both incomes on the paperwork.
> 60 days ago

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CarrieGyrl
CarrieGyrl writes:
P.S. I also wanted to comment that I find it insane that a Family Court can force a parent to pay for their child's college education IF that parent is no longer married, or in my case, was never married to the child's father.  On the OTHER HAND no one can "force" still-married parents to pay for their child's college education.  My parents were married, two incomes, owned a rental property in Florida, had two cars, a house in NJ where we all lived. My EFC figure was too high to get any kind of financial aide for my older brother to attend the state college.  He paid for it himself for one semester, then dropped out and started working. Our parents gave him nothing.  Then the following year, my parents refused to even bother filling out the financial aide forms as they told me it was a waste of time. My parents did not offer to give me or loan me any money for schooling.  I was working in a hamburger restaurant then, and had no savings. That July, after graduation, I turned 18, and had to start paying my parents rent, and they told me I had to pay for medical insurance through BlueCross/Shield, and I still did not have a car until I was almost 19 and finally had enough money to buy one and get car insurance for myself.  Five years later, I signed up for secretarial school using standard bank loans to pay for it, as my parents would not fill out the financial aide forms, telling me I would not qualify anyway.  I could not afford to move out to my own apt or even with roommates, as that would be more expensive than living cheaply in my parents home with their furniture, etc. I could not be classified as "independent" because I lived with my parents.

The point is, that noone forced my parents to pay or even fill out the forms. Because they were married.  

Un married parents can be forced to pay for their children's education. There are stories of kids out there who wish their parents would get divorced so that the court will then make the parents pay their college.  Divorce will ensure these kids get to go to college. There was a story on the Internet where a child age 18 filed a court motion to force her divorced parents to pay her college, and she won that motion.
> 60 days ago

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mind
mind writes:
your son has to  go to a financial aid consler in order to get help with collage.With you as a single mother start a savings (i come from a single parant home)and talk to the your  attorney about the father helping your son out and you.
> 60 days ago

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CarrieGyrl
CarrieGyrl writes:
Well, then the time comes, I will certainly set up my son with a counsler. The problem is that my deepest fear is getting slapped with a Motion to appear in Family Court, a Motion filed by his father, because I have to tell my son that I have no savings for myself or him, to hand him to pay for college.  His father will be very angry, and demand that I pay half.  When I tell him I cannot, he will probably file a Motion and the judge will probably tell me to pay.  

And...it's very easy for someone to say "start a savings account" but when you are getting slapped with credit card interest charges of over $100 every month, the most important thing in the world is to pay OFF those credit cards.  It burns me that the remaining balance of card debt had nothing at all to do with purchasing "things" or vacations, or fixing up my little condo - - all the debt was for lawyer bills totaling $20,000.  I am only an executive secretary, making a decent salary, but still..... not a professional making big bucks.  If i start a savings account, the credit cards will never get paid off.  The best choice is to pay off the card debt.  NO, I cannot get a home equity loan - no equity.  

And yes, I already have a second job.  And NO - his father will never pay child support, as that was part of the "deal" I had to sign to get him to stop the physical custody law suit (he and his new wife filed for full custody and said I was "Unfit" which was a total lie - new wife just wanted my son full time as she has no kids of her own)
When I signed the deal, he finally backed off.  So it was all about money.  He only paid support for our son for a mere two years total.  The two of them do not speak to me any longer.
> 60 days ago

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