Claiming dependents- A short guide for divorced parents 

During Love Court listeners have the opportunity to get advice from industry experienced family court lawyers at Anderson Keuscher. This week, a listener raised a question related to claiming children on IRS returns. Here is the question directed at Jessica Anderson on the topic during Love Court on the Alice 96.5 Morning Show:

I have two kids and my ex and I are supposed to claim one child on our tax return each year. I have just heard from my accountant that my ex claimed both children and my tax return got rejected because of it. What can I do? 

Claiming dependents- What does it mean? 

During tax season, it is important for parents to claim dependents as it influences their return each year. The IRS do have certain criteria for a parent to add a child as a dependent:

  1. The child be below the age of 19, be under 24 if they are a full time student, or be permanently disabled. 
  2. The child must be your biological, step, adopted, or foster child. 
  3. The child must live with you for at least half the year. 
  4. A joint return cannot be filed for the same child. 

If a parent has full custody it is very clear that they get to claim the dependent due to the child living with them full time, however if a decree between the parties state that the non-custodial parent may also claim, this can allow them to claim based on the agreement. When split custody states that the time be shared equally, the ideal is to have a rotational agreement. It is very important to add details like this in a divorce decree and update it accordingly if any changes should happen in regards to custody of the child. 

The bottom line-communication 

Jessica Anderson, a lead lawyer in family court, has expressed how important communication is between divorced parents. Having a stable relationship with the other party will ensure that problems are handled smoothly, but in some cases things do slip into the gaps. Miscommunication between accountants and the divorced parents could be the issue here, especially if the accountants are unaware of the arrangement that the parents have between them. Whether it is claiming both kids in rotation, or one child each, is totally up to their personal arrangements, but the key is to ensure that every year the accountant is made aware of the arrangement or any changes thereof. 

Picking up the phone and having an open conversation if something does happen to disadvantage either party is the best solution. Jessica advises the listener to simply discuss a new arrangement with the father, for example to let her claim both kids the next year. The difficulty does arise when you have an uncooperative parent, or an instance where the tax return leads to the parent owing money. The IRS however will not bother with the case, and relating your problems to them will not get you anywhere. 

Divorce and custody can often be a battlefield between parties, but working on an amicable relationship can be a wonderful way to ensure that nitty-gritty elements like tax returns are handled with mutual respect. This will ultimately ensure that the child is taken care of in a nurturing environment. If parents are always involved in an argument, the stress and emotions will spill over and influence the emotional wellbeing of the child. Ensure that any agreement is always put into writing, this protects both parties. Claiming dependent can be a painless and stress-free yearly routine if both parties are equally invested in the success of their co-parenting.