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Financial Aid

Word of the Day Wednesday: Custodial Parent

Each Wednesday, MEFA features a Word of the Day, where we highlight a word (or sometimes a phrase) related to the college planning process. This month, we're focusing on vocabulary related to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), the financial aid application you'll need to send to every college.

Today's Word of the Day is Custodial Parent.

Are you a divorced or separated parent of a student applying to college? If so, your family will need to determine which parent is the custodial parent before your son or daughter begins the FAFSA.

The term "custodial parent" is only applicable for students whose parents are divorced or separated. For these students, the custodial parent is defined as the parent with whom the student has lived the most over the previous 12 months. The student's other parent is considered the noncustodial parent. If the student has lived the same amount of time with both parents over the previous year, the custodial parent is defined as the parent who provided the greater amount of financial support for the student.

The student, the custodial parent, and the custodial parent's current spouse (if there is one) will be asked to provide demographic, financial, and household information on the FAFSA. The FAFSA will not ask for any information about the noncustodial parent.

(Note: If you're completing the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE® (another financial aid application required by many colleges), the noncustodial parent in your family may be required to submit information on a supplemental form.)

Why does this matter to you?

If you're a family with divorced or separated parents, it's important to understand which parent will need to report his or her personal information on the financial aid applications. To find out which applications are required at a certain college or university, check the school's financial aid website. And to start on your FAFSA, visit

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