Divorce and Dependents

Tax season is here and if you’ve gone through a divorce in the last year you also might be in the midst of re-thinking some tax issues. You might want to take some time to educate yourself on how the government treats the dependency exemption once you have ended your marriage, because the more dependents you can claim, the smaller your tax bill is.

Custodial Parent after a Divorce

According to the Internal Revenue Code, the custodial parent (the parent with whom the child lived for the greater number of nights, or the parent whom was granted as custodial parent by a court) is allowed to claim the minor children on the federal income tax return and thus, get the exemption.

The other parent, the noncustodial parent, generally cannot claim the exemption.

If You’re the Noncustodial Parent after the Divorce

You might be able to claim the minor child as a dependent if you are the noncustodial parent. This claim will be honored by the IRS if, as part of your divorce agreement, your former spouse and you agreed to allow the noncustodial parent to claim the minor child.

Alternating Claims

Sometimes spouses agree to alternate claiming the child every year – one parent claims the child one year, the next, the other parent claims the child, and so on. In couples that have more than one child, often times one parent will claim some while the other parent claims the others.

If you were divorced prior to 2008 you just need to attach the divorce court order to your tax return. But if you were divorced recently your spouse needs to fill out IRS form 8332 and provide the names of the children you are able claim.

You should keep these rules in mind if your divorce was filed in 2013 and you are now filing your first return as a single parent. Your tax adviser can help you work through this new form of filing.

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