Hess Family Law | Blog

If you have a child applying to college or currently in college then you have probably assisted them in applying for financial aid.  There are two major financial aid forms: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the CSS Profile.   The FAFSA requires financial information only from the custodial parent, which for purposes of the FAFSA application is defined as the parent that the child lives with more than 50% of the time. This applies to students whose parents are divorced or have been separated for at least six months prior to filing the FAFSA application.   However, if the custodial parent remarries, the stepparent’s financial information must be included for financial aid purposes.  Additionally, any child support that a parent receives is considered income for both the FAFSA and CSS Profile.

Divorced or separated parents should note that most but not all colleges that require the CSS Profile expect the noncustodial parent to complete a noncustodial Profile form. Both the custodial and noncustodial parents’ income is considered.  However, the total family contribution from both parents is usually slightly less than if the parents were still married, because colleges take into consideration the added cost of maintaining two households.  If both parents income is considered by the college then a stepparent’s income is not usually included; however if the college only requires the custodial parent to report income and that parent is remarried, the stepparent’s income will also be considered. 

If a 529 college savings plan is owned by the non-custodial parent, you may want to consider changing the account owner to be the custodial parent. A 529 plan that is owned by the custodial parent is reported as a parent asset on the FAFSA (worst case impact, a reduction in aid equal to 5.64 percent of the account’s value) but distributions are ignored. If the 529 plan is owned by the non-custodial parent, it is ignored as an asset, but distributions count as untaxed income to the beneficiary on the FAFSA (reducing aid eligibility by as much as 50 percent of the distribution). Having a 529 plan owned by the custodial parent will reduce the impact on eligibility for need-based aid.

Generally speaking, a child of divorced parents will qualify for more financial aid if the custodial parent is the parent who earns the lesser income.  This may be a factor that parents want to consider when determing custody of their older almost college bound children.  However, if parents live in different school districts and the children attend public school it may be suspect for the custodial parent to live in one school district and the minor child attends school in the non-custodial parent’s school district.  Also, know that you may be asked to provide a court order demonstrating custody and/or a custody agreement so you need to make sure you take care of obtaining agreements and court orders before applying for financial aid. Attorney Geraldine Welikson Hess and Hess Family Law can assist clients with any initial or modification of custody needs.

While January has traditionally been the month when FAFSA applications can begin to be filed, starting with the 2017-2018 school year the FAFSA application can be completed as early as October 1st of the previous year.  Click here for more information regarding changes to the FAFSA during 2016.  If you have questions about the FAFSA or CSS Profile you should contact a financial aid expert or FAFSA directly.  

Sources: Paul Bishop February 12, 2016 Want More Financial Aid?  Get a Divorce 

Emma Johnson September 9, 2015 College Financial Aid Advice for Divorced Families 

Published in Financial Issues
Thursday, 18 February 2016 11:03

When the Rich and Famous Divorce

When the rich and famous get divorced their divorce settlements usually involve millions.  Slice.ca lists 20 of the costliest celebrity divorce settlements of all time.   For example, according to The Guardian, media mogul Rupert Murdoch's divorce from his second wife Anna Torv cost him $1.7 billion.  The Daily Mail reported that Mel Gibson’s wife and mother of their seven children received approximately $850 million as part of their divorce settlement.   Wondering what other celebrities had to pay large settlements, click here.

Many of the celebrities cited in the article were married before they became rich and famous.  Those that married after their financial success may have avoided some of the emotional and financial fallout of their divorce if they had entered into a Prenuptial Agreement prior to their marriage.  It appears that all of these famous couples did enter into settlement agreements, enabling the couples to decide on the terms of their marital dissolultion rather than letting a judge decide the terms of their marital dissolution during a public trial.  

Attorney Geraldine Hess, and Hess Family Law can assist clients with the negotation and preparation of Prenuptial Agreements or Settlement Agreements.

Published in Agreements
Monday, 08 February 2016 18:31

Happy Chinese New Year

Hess Family Law wishes all our friends and those who celebrate a very happy Chinese New Year.  May the year of the Monkey be a great one.

Published in Holidays
Tuesday, 02 February 2016 03:44

Text Messages Used as Evidence

Texting is a great way to stay in touch with your spouse, ex-spouse and/or your kids, especially if you are separated or divorced.  In some cases, parties that are separated or divorced have difficulty communicating.   Anger, stress, and frustration can cause parties to dread phone or face-to-face communication.   By sending short text messages, parties can communicate efficiently without having to engage in lengthy conversations.  However, you should be mindful that unlike phone conversations, there is a record of your text message conversations and just like emails; text messages can end up in the courtroom during your divorce or custody dispute.  

How common is this?   According to a survey by the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers® (AAML), 94% of the respondents cited an overall rise in the use of text messages as evidence during a trial.   In fact, text messages were the most common forms of evidence taken from smart phones holding the top spot at 62%, e-mails follow at 23%, phone numbers and call histories at 13%, with GPS and Internet search histories each sharing 1%.  Why the increase in text messages as evidence in divorce and/or custody cases?   Unlike phone conversations, text messages are a written record of a dialogue between spouses, ex-spouses or children.   They can be used to highlight problems such as parenting issues, irresponsible behavior, and even contradict sworn testimony.  

If text messages may end up in Court, what are your options?   As I discussed in Technology Makes Communication Easier, if you cannot verbally communicate, it is better to use email and/or text messaging then to not communicate at all.  But, never send an email or text message in the heat of an argument.  And, never send an email or text message that you would not want a Judge to read.  While technology has its drawbacks, if used properly, it can make managing two households a lot easier.

Ms. Hess is a Fellow of the Maryland Chapter of the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers® (AAML).  Click for more information about the National AAML or the Maryland Chapter of the AAML.  

Published in Technology

Mailing Address

Maryland:
Geraldine Welikson Hess, Esq
Hess Family Law
451 Hungerford Dr,
Suite 119-307
Rockville, Maryland 20850

Virginia:
Geraldine Welikson Hess, Esq
Hess Family Law
344 Maple Ave West,
Suite 355
Vienna, Virginia 22180

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