Financial Aid

Ask a MEFA Expert: Advice for a 'Blended Family'

Ask a MEFA Expert is frequently asked questions about filing the FAFSA® when the parents are divorced, perhaps remarried, and other situations that come from having, as one mother phrased it, "a blended family."  At MEFA, we're experienced in guiding all types of families through successfully completing their financial aid forms.  Here are a couple questions we recently fielded from "blended" families.

How does FAFSA identify the custodial parent?  In my own case, I have sole physical custody while my ex-husband and I share legal custody.

The FAFSA asks the family to identify the custodial parent.  That is usually the parent with whom the child lives.  So in this case, it sounds like you are the custodial parent.  So only you (and your current spouse, if you are remarried) would report your information on the FAFSA.  It's irrelevant that you and your ex-husband share legal custody.

We are a blended family.  I married my husband after his wife and my husband died.  All of my children under 18 years old receive Social Security benefits due to the death of their one parent. What are their Social Security benefits considered?  Are they untaxed Social Security benefits?

Untaxed Social Security benefits are not reported on the FAFSA.  However, if any of the Social Security benefits are taxable, they would appear on your tax return and be counted within your Adjusted Gross Income, which is reported on the FAFSA. You should determine which type of benefits your family receives and list them accordingly on the FAFSA. The CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE does ask about untaxed Social Security benefits, so if you need to submit the PROFILE to any school, you will need to report the benefits on that application.

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