Tax season: as if there wasn’t enough to worry about with the simple act of filing divorce papers!
Yes, it’s true. A lot can change for you during this rather difficult time, and the changes will come whether you use an attorney or file for an uncontested divorce.
Claimants will change. Returns will change. Calculations will have to be made for the part of the year where you were married and for the portion where you weren’t. It’s something we recommend taking up with a tax professional, but before you do, here’s a primer on the top things you’ll need to know.
One: Change Of Filing Status.
You’ll no longer be eligible for the same rates and distinction as “married, filing jointly.” Depending on your assets, income, and number of dependents, this could go either way. One thing is certain, though. You will be affected.
Child tax credits are perhaps the most valuable boost you can get to your tax return, and who ends up claiming the child will ultimately enjoy the financial benefits therein. This is something you and your spouse will need to decide in your final divorce decree.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “a child is usually treated as ‘belonging’ to the parent who has custody for the greater part of the year. That parent is called the custodial parent. The other parent is called the noncustodial parent.”
WSJ notes that a noncustodial parent may be granted the right to claim under the following conditions:
Over half the child’s support for the year must be provided by one or both parents.
Parents must be divorced or separated under a written agreement at the end of the year or have lived apart during the last six months of the year.
The child must be in the custody of one or both parents for over half the year.
The custodial parent must sign a written declaration releasing to the noncustodial parent the right to claim the designated child as a dependent for the year. To meet this requirement, the custodial parent signs IRS Form 8332. The noncustodial parent must attach a copy of Form 8332 to his or her Form 1040.
“When all these requirements are met,” WSJ explains, “the noncustodial parent is eligible for certain tax breaks. (The custodial parent is then ineligible.)”
Three: If Filing Jointly…
If you have been filing taxes jointly, then IRS claims can be made against both of you. Make sure you have no outstanding claims from prior tax filings. Your final divorce forms do not automatically negate the past!
Taxes may be easy enough to do on your own with each passing year, but if you’ve experienced a mid-year change of life like divorce, don’t leave things to chance. Make sure you close the books on your marriage with the help of a pro.