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Thinking about child custody and tax exemption benefits

Tax season is now in full swing. Congratulations if you have already filed your taxes. But if you have not yet done so, perhaps one of the reasons you are hesitating to file is that you are unsure of whether you or your co-parent gets to claim the tax exemption for your dependent child.

The answer to the question, “Who gets to claim our child on tax forms?” is not as simple as one might think. These days, an increasing number of divorced or separated parents share child custody jointly. As a result, each may pay for a fair amount of a child’s expenses and may take care of the child for a significant amount of time.

In general, the federal Internal Revenue Code allows custodial parents to claim children on their tax forms and receive exemptions accordingly. But what if both parents share custody jointly? The default position is that the parent whose home the child slept in for the most number of nights during the year gets to claim the exemption.

However, this kind of calculation seems unfair to many parents who have joint custody and even to parents who provide a staggering fraction of a child’s support. In these situations, parents can opt to alternate the years in which they will claim the child as a dependent, as only one parent can do so at a time.

In addition, some parents either note in their divorce decree or in a modification to their child support order that one parent specifically may claim the child or that the parents will do so on a rotating schedule. If you have questions about any of these tax-related matters, please do not hesitate to contact an experienced family law attorney.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Children of Divorce: Who Gets the Tax Exemption?” Stann Givens, March 13, 2014

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