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
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.
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.
Although some believe that shared custody arrangements expose children to additional stress due to constantly moving from house to house, a Swedish study indicates that the potential stress from living in two homes is outweighed by the positive effects of close contact with both parents. Despite the hassles of living in two homes, most children in the survey stated that a close relationship with both their parents was most important.
The study, Fifty moves a year: is there an association between joint physical custody and psychosomatic problems in children? published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health suggests that kids fare better when they spend equal living time with both parents. The study compared children in joint physical custody arrangements, with those living only or mostly with one parent and those living in nuclear families. Based on a national survey of nearly 150,000 Swedish children aged 12 and 15 years, the study found that children who live equally with both parents after a parental separation suffered from less psychosomatic problems such as sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, headaches, stomachaches and feeling tense, sad or dizzy than those living mostly or only with one parent. However, children in joint custody arrangements still reported more psychosomatic problems than those in non-separated or divorced nuclear families.
For more information on Child Custody, please click here.
Divorce filings rise in the month of January because couples tend to wait until after the holidays to separate. James McLaren, past president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers commented that in the month of January “we see a significant increase in people seeking out divorce advice and, ultimately, filing. The number of filings is one-third more than normal.” Similar trends are seen in the U.K.: 1 in 5 couples plan to divorce after the holidays, according to a recent survey of 2,000 spouses by legal firm Irwin Mitchell. The survey also found that instructions to lawyers to file for divorce are also up 27% so far this month compared with an average month.
Many theorize that the rise in filings at the beginning of the year is due to couples not wanting to dampen the holidays with news of a divorce. Those hoping for an amicable resolution once the divorce proceedings are filed may consider whether their spouse will be so eager to settle if the holidays are marred by a separation and talk of divorce. Additionally, there may be concern that a disgruntled spouse could use the divorce as an excuse to spend more on gifts then he/she otherwise would have spent. While running up credit cards and draining bank accounts can happen at anytime of the year, a spouse may be less likely to do so after the holidays.
Waiting until after the craziness of the holidays has passed gives parties more time to plan and prepare. In order for an attorney to have a clear understanding of income, assets, and expenses parties will need to begin collecting financial documents. End of the year statements are an important piece to the financial picture. Many of these documents are not available until the end of December or the beginning of January.
If you are considering divorce, Hess Family Law can provide advice based on your particular situation and goals.
Source: Reuters, Considering divorce? Good reasons to wait for January, Geoff Williams, December 4, 2015
Marketwatch.com, Why January is a popular month to file for divorce, Quentin Fottrell, January 6, 2015
Ms. Hess has again been selected to the Maryland Super Lawyers list that can be found in the Maryland 2016 edition of Super Lawyers Magazine. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations. Ms. Hess has received the honor of appearing on the Super Lawyers list since 2009.
We wish everyone a happy and healthy 2016!
If your New Years Eve celebration includes drinking please do not drive. Plan ahead and have a designated driver or another plan for getting to your destinations safely. If you find yourself in need of a ride, please use a taxi, uber, call a friend, or use a free local ride service.
SoberRide 1-800-200-8294 offers free rides not to exceed $30 fare originating from Montgomery County, Maryland; Fairfax, Virigina, and other locations to riders age 21 or older. The service operates from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
For the newly separated or divorced, the demands of the holiday season can quickly take a toll on your mental and physical well being. You likely have your own feelings of stress, anger, fear, and loss that can make it even more difficult for you and your children to maintain joy during the holidays. Surviving the holidays may be hard, but not impossible.
For ideas and tips on coping with the holidays during and after divorce read Hess Family Law Blogs: Tips for the Holiday Season and Surviving the Holidays Part 3: Christmas, Chanukah, and More.
- Not have any minor children in common;
- Submit a written settlement agreement to the Court, signed by both parties that resolves all issues of support, and property;
- Neither party may seek to set aside the written settlement agreement before the divorce hearing and
- Both parties appear at the divorce hearing.
- A limited divorce can now be granted on the grounds of a separation. The separation no longer has to be voluntary on the part of both parties, and there no longer has to be no reasonable hope or expectation of a reconcilation.
- The residency requirement for divorce grounds occuring outside the State of Maryland have been reduced. A party may file for divorce after having resided in Maryland for at least 6 months before filing. The residency requirement used to be a year.