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Which Parent Can Claim the Child Tax Credit?

After a custody, separation or divorce matter, the parents need to determine who will claim their children on their taxes. As predicted, the IRS has a rule for everything, even this situation. Bottom Line: only one parent can claim the child tax credit on their taxes. As per the IRS, if the parents are the "divorced or legally separated parents of one child." The question becomes "May each parent claim the child as a dependent for a different part of the tax year, or may the non custodial parent claim the child?" The answer is NO. As per the IRS, "an individual may be a dependent of only one taxpayer for a tax year. You can claim a child as a dependent if he or she is your qualifying child. Generally, the child is the qualifying child of the custodial parent. The custodial parent is the parent with whom the child lived for the longer period of time during the year."

In other words, the parent who has the "primary physical custody" has the right to claim the child.

Ok, but "what if" the parents have 50/50 custody and one parent has a higher income? The IRS has developed a tiebreaker for these situations. Have the custodial parent sign IRS Form 8332, which allows them to release their interest in the claiming the exemption. Now, the parent with the higher countable income can claim the child tax credit. This is simply because the parent with the higher income will be able to claim a larger tax benefit. You can take a look at the IRS Form here.

Now, if your ex is not cooperating on this issue and possibly other issues, then maybe it is time to think about filing a modification of custody. A modification could also impact which parent is allowed to claim the exemption going forward.

In summary:

Which Parent Should Claim a Child on Taxes?

  • Whoever the custodial parent is as per the last court order; OR

  • If 50 50, then the parent with the higher income using the IRS tiebreaker rule

Chris Meyer Law Firm, PLLC is dedicated to representing our clients and protecting their financial interests. Give us a call at (281) 845-2472 or fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation. We primarily serve the greater Houston area.

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