Which Parent Claims a Child on Taxes After Divorce?

8Which Parent Claims a Child on Taxes After Divorce?

Many legal issues will inevitably arise when a couple divorces, especially when they have children. When tax time comes around, both parents may wonder whether they can rightfully claim their child as a dependent on their income tax return. The answer may not always be simple, and it may vary from couple to couple. If you are unsure about how to file your taxes, it can be helpful to seek answers from a qualified family law attorney.


Custodial Parent Typically Claims Dependent

In general, the custodial parent is the one to claim a child on income taxes unless there is some other specification. A custodial parent is considered to be the one with whom the child spends most of their time during the year. Even if you share custody, your child may spend considerably more time with one parent than the other. While it may seem unfair, the parent the child lives with is the one who would claim the child as a dependent for tax purposes. This is generally true unless there is another order in place.


Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “Who pays for the children’s health insurance and co-pays?”


Shared Parenting

In situations where parents equally share custody of their child, they must make sure to agree on which parent is allowed to claim them. It is best to address this matter as part of your divorce settlement and shared parenting agreement. In some instances, a couple may decide that they will claim the child every other year. If they have multiple children, they might split it up as they prefer. However, it is critical to know when it is your turn to claim a dependent. If you improperly claim the child, you and your former spouse could cause problems with the IRS.


Unmarried Fathersaccounting-calculator-tax-return-1241864

Unmarried fathers need to understand the rules regarding when and how they can claim a child on their income taxes. Just because you are the father of a child does not give you automatic rights to claim them on IRS forms. In fact, an unmarried mother has the right to claim their child on their taxes. This is true unless there is some other agreement or order in place. For a father to have the ability to claim a child on income taxes, they must first establish themselves as the legal parent. Then, they must also have primary custody or equal shared physical custody of the child.


Include Clarification in your Divorce Order

It may be a good idea to include how you will handle dependency for tax purposes as part of your divorce settlement agreement. This is especially important as the years go by and your circumstances may change. If you modify your child custody order, this is something that you should also address at that time. For example, if your child later changes their primary residence and lives with a different parent, you will want to ensure that the tax implications reflect that modification.


To learn more about child custody and taxes, contact our legal team today at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.






The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes four Board-Certified Family Law specialists and one Child Welfare Law specialist, as well as several attorneys with many years of family law experience that are committed to providing a powerful voice to individuals facing the often-tumultuous issues in this area of law. The range of issues our family law clients may be facing include pre- and post-nuptial agreements; separation agreements; post-separation support; child support (both temporary and permanent); absolute divorce; divorce from bed and board; military divorce; equitable distribution of assets; child custody (both temporary and permanent); retirement benefits and divorce; alimony and spousal support; adoption; and emancipation. Because this area of the law is usually emotionally charged and complicated, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC act with the utmost dedication to ensure that each client understands his or her options, and then act to achieve the best result possible for that client’s particular situation.



custodial parent | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (cornell.edu)

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