Tax guide

Claiming Child When Divorced

Updated for filing 2021 tax returns

Who gets to claim dependents when you’re divorced?

Claiming a dependent child can provide or increase certain breaks, including child or dependent tax credits, the Earned Income Credit, and a more favorable filing status. However, being divorced or legally separated can make it difficult to determine who can claim dependents.

What is the difference between custodial and noncustodial parents?

It’s most common for the custodial parent – the one the child spends more than half the year with – to claim the dependent.

However, the noncustodial parent may also claim the dependent if a divorce or separation decree or a written declaration from the custodial parent (more on that later) says the noncustodial parent can claim the dependent.

What are the tiebreaker rules to determine which divorced spouse is the custodial parent?

Divorced parents may have a hard time determining who exactly is the custodial parent if the divorce papers don’t specify. These tiebreaker rules say the custodial parent is:

  • The parent who has the child for the most nights
  • The parent with the highest adjusted gross income if the child spends equal nights between both parents

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What happens if divorced parents both claim a child as a dependent?

When both parents claim the child, the IRS will use tiebreaker rules to determine which parent gets the dependent. The parent who does not qualify to claim the dependent will have to file an amended return and could even be audited, so it’s better to communicate and decide who will claim the dependent.

Can a custodial parent revoke their right to claim their child as a dependent?

If you have no divorce or separation decree, the custodial parent can sign Form 8332 or a written declaration to release their dependency claim. Either document may be for one year or for several years.

However, the custodial parent has the right to revoke Form 8332 or their written declaration at any time and reclaim the child as a dependent.

Use Form 8332 on your tax return when you’re claiming a child that the other parent has released, or to revoke your prior release of the child as a dependent.

Note: Claiming a dependent child will no longer give you a personal exemption to reduce your taxable income.

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Custody may be complicated, but at least filing your tax return is easy when you file with We make claiming your dependents straightforward and simple so you can feel good about filing your taxes.

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Also see:

Who Can You Claim as a Dependent?

Child Tax Credits

Child and Dependent Care

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