Amy Jack, a tax professional shares the following knowledge… Your marital status on December 31st is your marital status for tax filing purposes.
If you filed for divorce but it is still pending on December 31st then you are still married and must file either married filing jointly or married filing separately or, in some circumstances, you may qualify for head of household status.
If your divorce was finalized before December 31st then you are not considered married on December 31 and cannot file married. You can file either single or, in some circumstances, you may qualify for head of household status.
To qualify for head of household filing status you must pay more than half of the cost of maintaining a home in which both you and a qualifying child live. If you are legally married on December 31st you must have not lived with your spouse for the entire last six months of the tax year to qualify for head of household status. Child support and alimony count as money you are paying toward the cost of maintaining the home in determining if you are paying more than half of the cost.
DOCUMENT when your spouse moves out and keep evidence. Is s/he paying for rent somewhere else? Did s/he change the address on his/her driver’s license?
DOCUMENT where your children spend their time. Keep a calendar to show which nights the children spend in your custody and which nights they spend with their other parent. Keep this with your tax records (and you will have it if you ever need it for court).
If your child spent more nights with you than with the other parent then the IRS will favor you if there is a disagreement about claiming an exemption (this is why you need documentation). The IRS typically will not care what is written in the divorce documents unless particular child-specific information is spelled out in the document.
If you are not the custodial parent you must attach a Form 8332 (Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent) to your tax return. If you do not have this form signed by the custodial parent and the exemption is contested by the custodial parent you will lose. Talk to your attorney about having this document signed by your spouse as part of your settlement if you will not be the custodial parent but expect to be claiming the child on your tax return.
Alimony (Spousal Support) is deductible by the payer and must be included in the spouse’s or former spouse’s income. Child support payments are neither deductible by the payer nor taxable to the payee.
PLEASE seek the advice of a tax professional for your individual situation! This article is for general tax information only and is not intended to be advice for any particular situation. See IRS Publication 504 for additional information.
Information compiled by Amy Jack, EA of ABJ & Associates, Inc.
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Disclaimer: This is my personal blog. The opinions I express here do not necessarily represent those of my organization, Transitions Resource, LLC. The information I provide is on an as-is basis. I make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this blog and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its use.