Tax Exemptions for Unmarried and Divorced Parents

Feb 2015 | Family Law

At this time of year, many divorced or separated parents have questions about claiming their minor child for tax purposes.

According to federal tax laws, if parents are divorced or were never married, the custodial parent is allowed to claim the child for tax purposes. The custodial parent is defined as the parent with whom the child has lived for the greater number of nights during the rest of the year. If the child lived with each parent an equal number of nights during the year, the custodial parent is the parent with the higher adjusted gross income.

When entering an Order of Child Support, the Superior Court has the ability to order a custodial parent to sign Federal Tax Form 8332, which is a release of the exemption by the custodial parent. When the custodial parent signs this form, the non-custodial parent is entitled to claim the child.

It is fairly common for an Order of Child Support to include a requirement that the parents will alternate claiming the child every other year and that the parents will sign the Form 8332. It is also a good idea to include a provision that the parent paying child support must be current in his / her support obligation by the end of the tax year in order for that parent to claim the child.

Unique problems may arise when support being paid through the Division of Child Support is collected from the paying parent prior to the end of the year but is not received by the other parent after the end of the year.

Mary Coleman, a family law attorney at Curran Law Firm, successfully argued this issue before the Washington Court of Appeals in an unpublished opinion.

If you have questions about parental rights or other family law issues, contact attorneys Theresa Ahern or Mary Coleman at Curran Law Firm, P.S.—Experienced, dedicated, and responsive legal representation located in South King County.