Does Custody Matter When Filing Your Taxes? | Family Law
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Does Child Custody Matter When Filing Your Taxes?

Jul 21, 2020 | Child Custody

By Amanda Vann, Esq., 301-563-6685

For many parents, filing a tax return can be a headache. That headache can become a migraine for those who are separated or divorced because of the additional questions and issues that arise over which parent gets to claim the child or children on their taxes.

Parents often wonder: Can both parents file head of household if each parent is claiming one child?

Determine Who the Custodial Parent Is

Parents should look to any court orders or custody agreements they reached for information on who can claim the child as a dependent on their taxes. But it’s important to remember that the IRS isn’t concerned with what your court order or custody agreement says when you file your taxes. The IRS wants to know who is the custodial parent.

Before a parent can claim a child as a tax dependent, the IRS requires you to determine which parent is the custodial parent. According to the IRS, the custodial parent is the parent who the child lived with for a longer period of time during the tax year. Only the custodial parent may claim the child as a tax dependent and file as head of household.

But what happens when both parents share joint custody of a child and split the custody time equally, 50/50? Who is the custodial parent for tax purposes? According to the IRS, if the child lives with each parent for an equal number of nights during the year, the custodial parent is the parent with the higher adjusted gross income. Only that parent may file with the head of household status.

What happens if the parents agree to rotate each year so both parents can claim the child regardless of whom the child resided with most in a year? In this situation, the IRS allows the custodial parent to release a claim to exemption for the child so the noncustodial parent can claim an exemption. This is typically done by completing IRS Form 8332.

Parents Who Have Two or More Children

Tax exemptions become even more complicated for parents who have two or more children, and each parent agrees to claim at least one child to allow both parents to file the exemption. Remember that you both cannot file as head of household. In this situation, both parents may claim one or more of the children as tax-dependent, but only one parent may file as head of household.

It’s best practice to state within your custody agreement which parent can claim a child as a tax dependent and which parent may file as head of household each year to avoid confusion and tax audits. Clearly stating which parents can claim the child will prevent future headaches because the agreement will assist both parents in ensuring you’re compliant with the tax laws.

Alimony Payments Are No Longer Deductible

It’s also important to remember that as of Jan. 1, 2019, alimony payments are no longer deductible from the income of the paying spouse. Additionally, alimony received is no longer included in the income of the receiving spouse.

This also applies to any agreements executed before Dec. 31, 2018, but modified thereafter, provided the modification changes the terms of the maintenance payments and states that the maintenance is not deducible by the payor or included as income to the receiving spouse.

Andalman & Flynn, P.C. serves clients throughout Maryland and the District of Columbia, offering compassionate, quality service and results-driven representation across a broad range of legal areas. With a concentration on disability benefits law and family law, the firm focuses on cases that impact the rights of everyone, and they’re there for clients when responsive legal help is most critical.

Contact us at 301-563-6685 for more information about Andalman & Flynn.