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Mistakes your child may be making on FAFSA applications

The child who once could fit easily in your lap is nearly all grown up now and ready for college. You want the application process to be smooth, of course, but your child could be making errors that end up being costly.

For example, the FAFSA asks for information on the child's custodial parent. "Okay," your child might think. "Dad claimed me on his tax return, so that is who I put down." Not so fast, though. For the FAFSA, custodial parent simply means which parent the child lived with more in the past 365 days. Here is a look at this mistake and a few others.

Listing too many income sources

A child can never have too many people who love him or her, so it can seem wonderful when your child lists you, your spouse, your co-parent and your co-parent's spouse as people who will help pay for college. It can make sense because you all currently provide love and financial support in some form. However, listing all of these income sources can drastically reduce the amount of aid your child qualifies for and is not necessary to comply with FAFSA rules.

Listing the wrong "parents"

Children may have a murky understanding of who their custodial parent is for FAFSA purposes or would prefer to not have to list one in case the other parent gets upset. Make the process easier for your child by telling him or her who the custodial parent is if it could be unclear. If the child was strictly 50 percent, 50 percent living with both parents, then the determination is which household provided more financial support.

However, there is more. After determining custodial parent, the child must fill in information on "Parent 2." This person is NOT the child's second legal parent. Rather, it is the spouse, if there is one, of the custodial parent. If there has been no remarriage, your child should leave the Parent 2 section blank. Live-in boyfriends or girlfriends do not count as a Parent 2.



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