Divorced Parents, Rejoice! The FAFSA Expected Family Contribution Is Gone!
What is more stressful than itemizing out all of your separate property and expenses in order to determine the amount of child support based on the number of days per year the children are in your care? What is a bigger bummer than when your kids come to your house on the evening of New Year’s Day feeling crestfallen because of a snarky comment their stepmother made about the Christmas presents you gave them? What is more nerve-wracking than arguing with your ex-spouse every spring about which of you gets to claim your children on your income tax returns? Hashing things out with your spouse about paying for your child’s college education, of course! Filling out the FAFSA is an ordeal even when you are happily married. Your cuddly baby, the smart kid that used to add up the value of coins from your wallet so you could pay exact change for your meal at a fast-food restaurant, is now a party in a family financial dispute, never mind all the non-financial disputes that can arise between parents and children about college choice. Once you add your ex-spouse into the mix, then filling out the FAFSA is downright hellish. The good news is that a new federal law has erased one of the most demoralizing aspects of the FAFSA, namely the expected family contribution (EFC). As happy as we are to see 2020 go, no one is more relieved than the parents of teens, who will not have to contend with the EFC like their older peers did. While getting rid of the EFC removes one obstacle, there is still plenty of room for conflict among divorced parents of college students. A South Florida divorce lawyer can help you resolve these conflicts.
One of the pieces of journalism to bid good riddance to the EFC is a New York Times editorial in which Ron Lieber recalls his high school English teacher’s distaste for the passive voice. (“Expected” in the name of the EFC is a passive participle.) In disgust, the teacher would say, “Expected? By whom?” Even outside the context of the FAFSA, expectations were probably what doomed your marriage. You and your ex had conflicting expectations about your married life, your ex tried too hard to live up to her mother’s expectations about being a proper lady, your ex let society’s expectations which measure masculinity in terms of [money, weapons, muscle mass, fill-in-the-blank] make him measurable. Society’s expectations about Going to a Good College cause well-meaning family members to turn against each other.
The EFC is meant to include contributions from any family member. For many students above the age of 30, the family member contributing the most money to their education is their spouse, but for students just out of high school, it is their parents. Here, the old conflicts of values reemerge. If one parent is willing to pay what they can toward the student’s tuition at a private, out-of-state university, while the other one says it’s in-state tuition or nothing, or doesn’t believe in college at all, then no one is happy, least of all the student.
Worst of all, the EFC makes it sound like the money you pay toward your child’s education is a gift. Meanwhile, it is “expected,” and nothing breeds resentment like the expectation of expensive gifts. When filling out the FAFSA, every day is like the time your ex-spouse forgot your anniversary or told you that the new fridge he bought to replace the one that kicked the bucket was your Christmas gift. The student aid index, the successor to the EFC, is at least a less offensive term, a value-neutral question about finances.
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Paying for your children’s college is never painless, but a Boca Raton divorce lawyer can make sure that your ex-spouse does not impose unfair financial obligations on you. Contact Schwartz | White for help with your case.