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Divorce and the child tax exemption

When couples begin the divorce process many think it is just a matter of deciding who gets to keep the house and who will pay child support. However, divorce is a major life event that effects nearly every aspect of your life, and this includes your income tax filings. Taking the time and steps necessary to understand how your divorce can affect your income taxes before you file can help you avoid problems and issues down the road.

Divorce is usually a fairly lengthy process, and that often means that couples are unsure whether they should file separate or joint tax returns while the divorce is in progress. There are pros and cons to both options. If you file as married until after the divorce is actually finalized, you will likely save some money, but you will also be responsible for any tax penalties or liabilities incurred by your ex-spouse.

Another important aspect when children are involved is who gets to claim the dependency exemption. Without specific provisions otherwise in the court order, the custodial parent claims the children for tax purposes. The custodial parent is also the only party able to claim child care credit for the children. However, noncustodial parents may still be able to get some tax benefits by claiming any medical expenses related to the children.

These issues are usually specifically addressed in your court order. However, if you are still in progress with the settlement, it's a good idea to talk to your lawyer about whether you are entitled to the tax exemption or if you should ask for it.

Source: FindLaw, "Divorce, Taxes, and Your Estate Plan," accessed Jan. 07, 2016

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