Many of the colleges that award a lot of institutional need-based grant aid require information from both the custodial and the non-custodial parent for students whose biological or adoptive parents are divorced or separated. Most will require information from both parents even if they were never married.
In general, if the college requires the CSS Profile, it will likely require non-custodial parent information. Each year, the College Board publishes a list of colleges that require non-custodial parent information.
It is always a good idea to review all financial aid application requirements on financial aid office web page for every target college.
Q & A
What information is required from the non-custodial parent?
- The non-custodial parent will usually be required to complete a separate CSS Profile and to provide a signed copy of the federal tax return with all schedules and W2’s.
- The CSS Non-Custodial Profile was discontinued as of October 1, 2017.
What if there is a divorce decree stating that one parent is not responsible for my college education costs?
- Divorce decrees and other legal agreements have no bearing on who is required to provide information as part of the financial aid application process. The federal financial aid regulations require that the custodial parent complete the FAFSA in order to determine eligibility for federal aid, and many colleges have institutional policies that require both parents to provide information in order to determine eligibility for institutional aid.
But what if the non-custodial parent is unwilling to cooperate?
- This is a very difficult – but not uncommon – situation that might prevent your student from attending some colleges.
- Eligibility for institutional need-based financial aid at some colleges is based on an estimate of ability to pay rather than willingness to pay so you must encourage your parent to complete the forms.
- If a school requires non-custodial parent information and it is not received, the financial aid application will remain incomplete and no institutional need-based grant will be awarded. You will still receive any federal grants, loans and work-study opportunities for which you are eligible based on federal rules, but the school will almost certainly withhold institutional financial aid.
- If you think you will face this situation, you should speak with each school financial aid office about their non-custodial policy before applying for admission so that you are not stuck in an impossible situation at the end of the process if you are admitted.
Is there any way to avoid the non-custodial requirement?
You may request a waiver in certain circumstances such as:
- You do not know where your non-custodial parent is and\or there has been no contact in a long time.
There is limited or no contact due to an abusive situation.
- In general you must demonstrate that the non-custodial parent is not part of your life at all. If he or she is part of your life in any way, the school will almost certainly expect that they be responsible for some part of paying for college.
How do I request a non-custodial waiver?
- Most schools have a waiver request form that you must complete if you cannot provide non-custodial parent information. Sometimes you can download it from the website and sometimes you must call the financial aid office and request it.