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Separated Couples Claiming the Children

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

It's tax season. Each parent wants the benefit of claiming the child(ren). Now what? Where here is the skinny on parents arguing over who gets to claim the child(ren).


  1. When parents become divorced, claiming the child will be listed in the divorce decree. Whether or not each parent alternates the child, alternate the exemption for the child, or the custodial parent claims solely, the IRS will follow the state law of where the divorce is legal.

  2. If there is no court order, then the IRS will use tie breaker rules if the child spent equal amount of time with each parent and the parents can't come to their own agreement. Normally, the parent with the higher income will get to claim the child.

  3. Also, if there is not court order, parents can fill out the form 8332 to alternate or make other arrangements for the child's exemption.

  4. If not married, sometimes it may be listed in child support or custody court orders depending on the state.


How does splitting the child exemption work? The form 8332 applies some tax benefits ( the child tax credit, additional child tax credit, and credit for other dependents) to the non custodial parent. It doesn’t apply to other tax benefits, such as the earned income credit, dependent care credit, or head of household filing status. Your tax preparer should know how split the child in half between the parents. If they don't, they may need a bot more training.


Other resources.

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