It seems some parents have been manipulating the child custody system in hopes of getting college scholarships for their children. In the Chicago area, dozens of parents are accused of intentionally changing a child’s legal custody status in hopes of getting financial aid from otherwise expensive universities. Stories similar to this broke in the Bay Area earlier this year when an actress was accused of a similar style of act.
Essentially, parents would have the child removed from their legal child custody in their junior or senior years of college. This way, on college applications, they were able to file as financially independent, and thus often eligible for need-based scholarships for which these kids would otherwise be passed over. Many of the accused families are wealthy families, one of which owned a $1.2M home.
The practice is technically legal, but probably not for long. The point is to legally declare your child independent, that is they are not claimed on your tax returns or as a legal child of residence. This allows the student to apply to colleges and disclose income, such as from a part time job, of small denominations. This is what allows them to achieve need-based scholarships.
It’s unclear how many instances of this type of manipulation of child’s legal status have happened or for how long. More and more is coming out of the topics as there have been large scale admissions scandals named across the country. It is not illegal to declare your child independent. However, there will likely be further repercussions down the line if the change in child custody is seen as a way to dupe the system.