I am recently completing the details of my divorce. We have a child that will be entering college next year, and have discovered that more financial aid may be awarded if I sign over all LEGAL custody to my wife. (we have been informed that they would only look at my wife's income in this case)
1. Is this true?
2. What rights would I ultimately be giving up if I decided to sign over all legal custory?
3. Any suggestions?
1 Answer from Attorneys
Re: Legal support
1. This is not a legal question. Who informed you of this? I have never heard of this scenario unless there is a specific grant with unusual requirements. I would say this sends up a red flag so I would request that in writing from the people stating it (sponsors or administrators of financial aid).
2. "Legal" custody is, simply put, "joint decision-making power". It has no bearing on where the child resides or actual physical custody. You may have a confusion of terms, which is common.
Additionally, legal custody should have no effect on financial status in my experience. The college Federal Aid forms typically require both parents financial information in any type of divorce situation (tax returns, etc.).
Legal custody entitles you to be kept informed and be part of all major decision making for the child especially in medical, religious and educational decisions.
3. I would ask you if one attorney is handling the divorce. If only one attorney is handling the divorce, you should be advised that they represent only the client that hired them and not the other party, even if both parties provided a portion of the retainer.
My best suggestion is to hire someone for at least a consultation at minimum before you sign anything. You may not be clear on what you are signing and the signed document will rule regardless of any verbal representations to the contrary.
Please understand that I am a family law attorney and not a college aid counselor. You should also check with your child's high school or college counselor for questions regarding financial aid. They can provide the forms for specific student loans and grants which will allow you to verify requirements and what would be looked at to determine the amount of financial aid granted.
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