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Who can claim the children at tax time after the divorce?

When a couple with children divorces, it creates several financial issues. Along with determining how much child support is required to care for the kids, there is the issue of who gets to claim the kids come tax time. For the noncustodial parent, this can mean a larger tax burden than they are used to having.

Most married couples with children file joint tax returns and both claim the kids, so neither is hit with a large tax responsibility at the end of the year. However, when the couple divorces, that protection of filing a joint return is no longer available. If an arrangement isn't made in advance, one parent might not get to claim the kids as an exemption either.

In California, like the rest of the nation, the parent who had the children for the most nights in the previous year gets to claim the children on the tax return. In order for a noncustodial parent to claim the children, the custodial parent has to agree to it. For the Internal Revenue Service to accept this arrangement without argument, that agreement should be signed off by the courts, and a copy of the court order should be attached to the tax return. For couples who divorced after 2008, IRS Form 8332 is required to be submitted with the tax return. A couple can agree to take turns in claiming the children, with one claiming odd years and the other even. If there is more than one child, the couple can each claim one or more children.

Divorcing parents should work these things out before it's time to file tax returns, so it's not something that's debated or even fought over each year. For couples who need help determining how to make the decision, speaking to an experienced legal professional can help a parent decide the best approach that will still protect them financially but will not leave the other parent with a large tax burden or possible ax to grind.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Children of Divorce: Who Gets the Tax Exemption?" Stann Givens, Mar. 13, 2014

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