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Does child custody have tax implications?

As you and your child's other parent work toward a fair child custody agreement, be sure to address how the way you divide your parenting responsibilities and privileges may affect your respective tax returns. Many parents, especially if they are both first-timers at parenting, do not realize how many exemptions and credits child custody offers.

If you have custody of your child, you can claim several tax advantages. These advantages include

  • claiming a child tax credit
  • claiming an exemption for the child
  • filing your returns as the head of your household
  • claiming credits for some child care expenses

These are only some of the advantages available to a parent when tax season arrives. However, if you do not coordinate with your child's other parent, you may create a big mess for yourself with the IRS.

While the tax laws do grant significant tax advantages to parents, two parents raising the same child separately may not both claim these advantages in the same calendar year. This means that only one parent may use these tax advantages at a time.

If you do both claim these exemptions on your tax returns in the same year, the IRS may deny or amend the claims of one parent, usually the parent who spent the fewest days with physical custody of the child throughout that tax year.

Many parents choose to address this issue by simply agreeing to an informal system of sharing tax breaks by agreeing to alternate years claiming the child for tax purposes. This system may work well for you and your child's other parent, but it is important that you work these issues out ahead of time before they cause unnecessary conflict or frustrating interactions with the IRS. If you need greater clarity on how to approach these issues and keep your rights protected, consult with an experienced attorney.

Source: FindLaw, "Child Custody and Taxes," accessed Dec. 01, 2017

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