About to file your income taxes? Review your court orders to see who gets to claim your child as a dependent.
Where do I find this information?
You can find this information in the Final Court Decree in your case. By the “final” decree, I mean the last order that the judge signed when your case was finished. The final decree may be called “Final Decree of Divorce”. It can titled “Order in Suit Affecting Parent- Child Relationship.” Look under the section about rights and responsibilities.
What if the information is not there?
This information will usually be there, but in case it was not included, you can contact a family law attorney to determine the best way to handle this. If the decree is silent, then there are certain rules and practices about who ordinarily claims the child, depending on the situation. Or, an agreement can be reached.
If I have the right to claim my child do I have to tell my ex that I am going to do so?
No, you aren’t required to inform your ex, because you already have the right. But, keep in mind that if you both claim the same child for the same year, you could draw unwanted attention from the IRS. No one wants to get audited. So, if you know that you have the right to claim your child, but you suspect that your ex is going to also do so, it is worth a conversation to avoid problems later on.
Does the same person always get to claim the child?
Not necessarily. That is why it is important to review your decree periodically. For instance, you may have the right to claim your child as a deduction for the first 5 years after your divorce. Then your ex may have the right to claim the child for the next 5 years. Memories get hazy with time, so don’t just assume that you remember. As mentioned above, you could get flagged by the IRS if both of you try to take the same deduction during the same year.
I am getting a divorce now. How can I make sure I get the deduction?
Who gets the deduction, and for how long, is one of the many issues that is negotiated during a divorce. If you are getting a divorce now, talk with your divorce attorney about this particular issue and let her know how important it is to you.
My decree is silent on this issue. It has other information that is missing or outdated. What should I do?
Contact a family law attorney for a consultation. If your decree has become unworkable, your attorney can review your options. She may suggest a discussion with your ex to resolve the issues between the two of you. You can do this yourself, or with the help of your attorney. Mediation is another option. Or, filing in family court for a modification may be the best option.