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Divorce tax implications: filing status and children

The income tax filing deadline is fast approaching. For those Tiburon, California, residents who are in the throes of a divorce, or have recently been divorced, tax season often brings a host of uncertainties. Two common questions are whether a divorcing or recently divorced couple can file a joint return, and which parent can claim a child as a dependent.

Many people ask if they can file a joint return for the year in which their divorce was finalized, since they were married for part of that year. The answer is no. The filing status is determined by a person's marital status on December 31 of the tax year.

Thus, if a couple was divorced anytime in 2016, they cannot file a joint return for 2016. If the divorce was not yet final on December 31, 2016, they can file a joint return for 2016.

A divorced parent with a dependent child can claim that child as a dependent, if the parent is considered the custodial parent. The custodial parent will typically be identified on the divorce decree.

If not, the parent with whom the child lived for the longer period of time in the tax year is the one who can claim the dependent child exemption. The custodial parent can also claim the college-tuition tax credit for that child.

These are only a couple of the myriad potential tax implications of divorce. Depending on one's family and financial situations, there could be others. Individuals with questions about how a marital dissolution will affect their finances can get answers by talking to their tax preparer or their divorce lawyer.

Source:, "Tax planning for divorce," accessed on March 18, 2017

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