I have been a single parent for 16+ years. My child will be heading for college in 2 years. After years of not dating, I'm now with someone...
... and we are talking marriage. However, how will this affect my chances of getting help / paying for my child's college experience? Is there more help available for children of single parents as opposed to married couples? We are living together, so does that also impact the situation?
Congratulations on your relationship and upcoming marriage!
Unfortunately, if you marry, your incomes will be combined on the FAFSA (Free application for Federal Student Aid.) If you live together, but do not marry, only your income (your W-2 of wages) is recorded on the federal aid application.
Also, don't forget to talk with your child about your boyfriend and how this does not change the relationship you have with your son/daughter. Even though they are older, it's tough to get used to having another adult in your life. Remind your child that this person does not take the place of his or her dad, but is another adult in his life to love him and care for him.
Shirley Cress Dudley, MA LPC NCC
Director of The Blended and Step Family Resource Center
It must be such a joy to have a special someone in your life! Congrats to you and the next phase of you life journey.
As to whether marrying would impact your child's eligibility for financial assistance, a quick answer is, yes, it will. If you are divorced and your child has been living with you for the majority of time over the past 12 months, your income would provide the basis for your child's eligibility for aid. If you are married, you would also include your spouse's income into the equation. Thus, the federal government would assume that your child has the financial support of you AND your spouse. However, if you apply as the sole contributor to your child's college education, this would be significantly less than a dual income, and your child would be eligible for more aid.
There is a worksheet available online for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) - see first link below. The worksheet does not include individuals living in the household with the child, so I'm fairly certain that your partner's income would not be included.
For more information on paying for college, we have a wealth of information on this topic from a variety of sources. I have provided the link to these resources on our site below. I think it might be worth it to meet with a financial planner to discuss your options. You have some difficult decisions to make, and you want to make certain that you have the most accurate information available. For instance, there are other financial options, including financial aid directly from the university, and college scholarships (your child's school counselor should have information on this).