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Claiming a child as a dependent after divorce

When parents in New Hampshire divorce, it will affect the way they file their federal income taxes. With the tax filing deadline looming, it is important for parents to understand how to account for their children on their federal income taxes now that they are no longer married.

This issue can be addressed during child custody negotiations. In the parents' divorce decree or child custody order, they can specify which parent is to claim the child as a dependent for income tax purposes. If the parents' divorce decree or child custody order does not state who will claim the child as a dependent, then the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will consider which parent the child lives with the majority of the year and will allow that parent to claim the child as a dependent. In general, this means the custodial parent will claim the child as a dependent. If the child lives with each parent the same amount of time, in general the IRS will then allow the parent with the greatest adjusted gross income to claim the child as a dependent, as it is likely they were the one who gave the child the most support, financially.

However, it is important to note that parent who files their taxes first and claims the child as a dependent will enjoy all the credits associated with having a dependent. If the child's parent files second and tries to claim the child as a dependent, that parent's tax return will not be accepted by the IRS. If there is a reasonable dispute, the parent disputing the claim must work with the IRS Customer Service department to determine if they have a claim and they may need to resubmit paper copies of their tax forms to resolve the issue. Thus, it is important for parents to negotiate who will claim the child as a dependent when they are settling their divorce legal issues.

As this shows, child custody and taxes can go hand in hand. While parents can choose to have the noncustodial parent claim the child as a dependent and if so should document this in their divorce decree, oftentimes the parents or the IRS will determine that the custodial parent should claim the child as a dependent for tax purposes. Of course, the general information in this post is not a replacement for the advice of an attorney, so those who need legal guidance on this topic are encouraged to bring the matter up to a professional.

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