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Which Parent Claims the Children as Dependents After a Divorce?


It is tax season once again and while you gather your receipts and other important financial documents, you will likely also start to think about the deductions you can make. After all, the more deductions you have, the less you may have to pay in taxes. Parents in the United States are able to claim their children as dependents, and this is true for Floridians, too. This is a simple concept when two parents are married, live with their children, and file joint tax returns. However, after two people get a divorce, the situation becomes much more complicated.

The Law on Who Can Claim Children as Dependents

According to the IRS, parents can claim children as dependents, which allows them to make some deductions related to child expenses. After two people get a divorce and they have children, only one parent can make those same deductions by claiming the children as dependents. The IRS takes this rule very seriously and will check the Social Security numbers of the parents to ensure both are not claiming children as dependents in the same year.

In most cases, the parent that provided the most financial support to the child during the present tax year can claim the child as a dependent. Still, parents can fill out IRS Form 8332 to waive this right and allow the other parent to claim the child as a dependent. After a divorce, the two spouses can also communicate with each other to reach an agreement about which parent will claim the deductions. In other instances, the court may issue a divorce decree that outlines which parent has the right to claim the children as dependents.

Taking the Matter to Court

Like all other issues regarding divorce, when two parents cannot agree on which person can claim the child as a dependent, a judge will make the final decision. When a judge has issued a child custody order, it is usually the parent that has primary custody that can claim the child as a dependent, unless they have waived their right to do so.

When there is no child custody order in place, such as when the divorce is not finalized yet but each parent lived with the child for at least half of the year, a judge cannot rely on a custody order to make their decision. As such, a judge will consider which parent provided the most financial support to the child and will allow them to claim the children as dependents.

In the most challenging circumstances, two parents may share custody equally and provide equal financial support to their children. In these instances, a judge will generally have discretion when making the decision about which parent can claim the children as dependents. Like in child custody matters, a judge will consider what is in the best interests of the child, as well as the IRS Publication 504 guidelines.

Our Florida Family Lawyers Can Advise on How Divorce Impacts Your Taxes

There are many tax issues that will arise when you get a divorce, and which parent can claim the children as dependents is one of them. At Eighmie Law Firm, P.A., our Port St. Lucie divorce lawyers can advise on how your divorce will affect your taxes, and on all other aspects of your case, as well. Call us today at 772-905-8692 or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation with one of our seasoned attorneys.


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