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Can I share dependent tax benefits with another parent?

For many divorcing parents, reaching a fair agreement about how to raise their children is the most difficult part of the process. Custody and parenting agreements can create surprising conflicts between spouses during a divorce, even when both parties are trying to remain reasonable. The issues at stake deal with both personal property and finances, as well parents' most precious relationships, those with their children.

If you and your spouse face difficulty reaching fair compromises in your parenting and custody agreements, you may end up missing out on important benefits come tax season, or claiming benefits that you shouldn't. In general, parents may not share dependent tax benefits in the same year. This can create enormous problems for parents, and complicate an already difficult process.

It is always easier and usually much safer to negotiate these agreements with the guidance of an experienced family law attorney. Professional legal counsel ensures that you understand the norms within the divorce system, while keeping your priorities and rights protected.

Dependent benefits and custody

Any parent who does claim a child as a dependent on his or her tax returns gains access to a number of important exemptions and credits. These parents may:

  • claim exemptions for certain childcare expenses
  • file their returns as the head of their household
  • claim a child tax credit
  • claim an exemption for the child as a dependent

These are not the only benefits, mind you, and you can already clearly see that claiming a child as dependent is valuable, and may make a huge difference in years that you do claim your child.

Find a solution that is truly fair

If you retain primary custody of your child, you may generally claim the child as a dependent. However, many parents share relatively equal parenting responsibilities and privileges, so it is important to clarify how you will each address the issue until the child reaches legal adulthood.

You may find it useful to simply agree to alternate years claiming the child as a dependent, which is a method many parents use to keep things simple and fair. If you choose to use this method, you should both agree to it in writing. Otherwise, you may incur costly legal fees, tax penalties and unnecessary scrutiny into your finances by the IRS.

Be sure to seek out all the legal guidance that you need to keep your rights as parents protected and to ensure that you provide the best life that you can for your child.

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