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Child Custody and Taxes

When you and your spouse decide to call it quits, you’re more worried about you’re your children will think than what the IRS will think. That’s only natural — when parents are dealing with custody issues, often the furthest thing from their minds is how it will affect their tax status. When is comes to child custody, you want to make sure you do things right. So, if you want to avoid serious tax penalties, or reap significant tax benefits, it’s better to figure it out sooner than later.

Child Custody and Taxes

Tax Benefits For Claiming a Dependent Child

There are numerous standard tax benefits to claiming a child as a dependent:

  • The exemption for the child;
  • The child tax credit;
  • Head of household filing status;
  • The credit for child and dependent care expenses;
  • The exclusion from income for dependent care benefits; and
  • The earned income credit.

However, the rules are more complicated for divorced or separated parents. If you claim your child as a dependent, you cannot split these benefits with the other parent, even by your own agreement.

Can Both Parents Claim a Dependent Child?

The dependency exemption cannot be split. Generally, the custodial parent is treated as the parent who provided more than half of the child’s support. This parent is usually allowed to claim the exemption for the child if the other exemption tests are met. However, the noncustodial parent may be treated as the parent who provided more than half of the child’s support if certain conditions are met.

The custodial parent can sign a Form 8332 Release of Claim to Exemption for Child of Divorced or Separated Parents, or a substantially similar statement, and provide it to the noncustodial parent who attaches it to his or her return. Please beware that if the custodial parent releases the exception, the custodial parent may not claim the Child Tax Credit.

How Does the IRS Decide Which Parent Gets the Benefits?

To determine which parent can treat the child as a qualifying child in order to claim tax benefits, IRS rules employ the following tiebreakers:

    • If only one of you is the child’s parent, the child is treated as the qualifying child of the parent;
    • If you do not file a joint return together but both of you claim the child as a qualifying child, the IRS will choose the parent with whom the child lived for the longer period of time during the year. If the child lived with both of you for the same amount of time, the IRS will choose the parent who had the higher adjusted gross income (AGI) for the year;
    • If no parent can claim the child as a qualifying child, the child is treated as the qualifying child of the person who had the highest AGI for the year;
    • If a parent can claim the child as a qualifying child but no parent does so claim the child, the child is treated as the qualifying child of the person who had the highest AGI for the year.
    • However, please remember that although the IRS has these standards, a State Court Order can trump who gets to claim the child for tax deduction purposes.  For this reason, you need to speak with a family lawyer before you make a mistake and end up having contempt charges brought against you for violating a court order.

How Do Court Custody Orders Affect Deductions?

IRS Publication 504 covers who may claim a dependency exemption, and how, following a divorce or separation. Regardless of what the custody orders the court has issued, federal law determines your federal tax status. Therefore, the IRS requirements supersede a county or state court order.

More Child Custody Information

It is never easy navigating child custody or tax matters. You might find it valuable to talk with an experienced tax attorney or child custody attorney about your particular case.

Free Consultation with Child Custody Lawyer

If you have a question about child custody question or if you need to collect back child support, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will aggressively fight for you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

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Michael Anderson

About the Author

People who want a lot of Bull go to a Butcher. People who want results navigating a complex legal field go to a Lawyer that they can trust. That’s where I come in. I am Michael Anderson, an Attorney in the Salt Lake area focusing on the needs of the Average Joe wanting a better life for him and his family. I’m the Lawyer you can trust. I grew up in Utah and love it here. I am a Father to three, a Husband to one, and an Entrepreneur. I understand the feelings of joy each of those roles bring, and I understand the feeling of disappointment, fear, and regret when things go wrong. I attended the University of Utah where I received a B.A. degree in 2010 and a J.D. in 2014. I have focused my practice in Wills, Trusts, Real Estate, and Business Law. I love the thrill of helping clients secure their future, leaving a real legacy to their children. Unfortunately when problems arise with families. I also practice Family Law, with a focus on keeping relationships between the soon to be Ex’s civil for the benefit of their children and allowing both to walk away quickly with their heads held high. Before you worry too much about losing everything that you have worked for, before you permit yourself to be bullied by your soon to be ex, before you shed one more tear in silence, call me. I’m the Lawyer you can trust.