Who can claim a child on their taxes?

Tax day is today, April 15 and many people who are going through a divorce or are already divorced will be dealing with the question of who gets to claim the children as dependent deductions on their income taxes.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) only allows one parent to claim a child on their taxes.  The general rule is that if there is no other agreement the parent who has primary custody can claim the child.  So, if you provide care and have your child more than half of the time, you should be entitled to claim that child as a dependent on your tax return.  For practical purposes however, the tax deduction is often negotiated as part of a divorce settlement and it is very typical for parents to alternate years claiming a child (case law also provides for the Court to order sharing tax benefits associated with children); whether or not this is appropriate for your case will depend on a number of factors including a consideration of your respective incomes, alimony and child support payments, etc.

If you do have an agreement for the non-custodial parent to claim a child as a dependent, make sure IRS form 8832 is filled out and attached to your return.