Income Tax Questions Regarding Divorce & Custody


Every year, as April 15th approaches, I get several calls asking about some common income tax issues as they relate to divorce and children. Much of the tax information is not particularly intuitive – it’s just some law that you need to know.

Income Tax Filing Status If Divorced Last Year

I got divorced last year. What status do I use when I file my taxes?

Use your status as of December 31st for the tax year. If you were divorced before the end of the year, you will not be able to file a joint tax return. It does not matter that you were married for part of the year.

Who Can Claim Children as Dependents After a Divorce

Who gets to use the children for their dependency exemptions on taxes?

The parent with whom the children primarily live (the primary conservator) will generally get to claim them as exemptions on their taxes. There are some exceptions. The most common of which is an agreement between the parents as to who will be allowed to use the exemptions. If an agreement is reached (either in the custody order or after the order is entered), the primary conservator should sign an IRS form 8332 (Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent). That form should be attached to the tax return of the non-primary parent.

Can Child Support be Claimed as an Expense on Income Tax Return

Does child support go on my tax return?

The short and direct answer is no. Child support is paid with after tax money. There is no deduction available for it. If you receive child support, you do not need to claim the income on your tax return.

Is Alimony or Spousal Support a Tax Deductible Write Off

Can I write off the alimony I pay?

Yes. Alimony (or maintenance) is deductible by the paying party and the receiving party must claim those payments on their tax return as income.

Tax issues can be full of stumbling blocks and learning what to do with them just after a divorce or child custody order can be confusing. Your first line of defense should always be your CPA or tax attorney, but for some of the most common questions, your family law attorney should have an answer.

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