This guidance is specific to the 2024-25 award year and later.
Scenario: The student's mother and father are divorced. The mother pays child support to the father, who in turn uses those funds to support the student.
Answer: Starting in 2024-25, the parent who pays child support should include the amount of child support paid during the relevant 12-month period when determining which parent is the parent of record based on providing more than half of the student's support. For example, if the mother is paying the child support to the father, that child support counts as part of the mother's (not the father's) support for the child. If this child support, along with any other support provided for the child by the mother, adds up to more than 50 percent of the support of the child, then the mother is the parent of record on the FAFSA.
See the following from "Who Counts as a Parent on the FAFSA?" in Chapter 2 of the Application and Verification Guide in the 2024-25 FSA Handbook: "If parents are divorced or never married and not living together, the parent on the FAFSA form should be the parent who provided more than 50% of the financial support for the student during the last 12 months. This may be different from the parent the student lived with during that same period. If one parent pays child support to the other parent, the child support paid counts for the payer when determining which parent is a required contributor on the FAFSA form. Once the parent who provides more than 50% of the financial support for the student has been determined, that parent (and their current spouse, if applicable) should report their income and asset information on the student’s FAFSA form as a contributor. If neither parent provided more than 50% of the financial support for the student, the parent (and current spouse, if applicable) with the greater income and assets is a required contributor on the FAFSA form."
This is consistent with Section 475(f) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), as amended [20 USC 1087OO Amendment of Section] which states, "Parental income and assets for a student whose parents are divorced or separated, but not remarried, is determined by including only the income and assets of the parent who provides the greater portion of the student's financial support."
In its Better FAFSA Better Future webinar presentations, ED further explained that the parent of record is the parent who provided the greater portion of the student's financial support during the 12 months immediately prior to filing the FAFSA. If neither parent provided support in the 12-month period, the parent of record is the parent who provided the greater portion of support during the most recent year that the student received financial support from a parent. You will notice that there is no mention of where the student lived or is living.
Note: This guidance may differ from what ED provided at the 2023 NASFAA Conference, where this question was debated in multiple sessions, ending with ED stating they would discuss it further before providing a final answer after the conference.
See AskRegs Knowledgebase Q&A, Who Is the Parent Of Record On the FAFSA Starting In 2024-25?
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