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Divorce and claiming dependents

When parents in Virginia file their federal income tax returns, they can generally claim their children as dependents. However, if they are divorced or separated, they should make sure that the other parent is not claiming the children as dependents as well. If multiple people claim the same dependents, the Internal Revenue Service will have to take a second look at those returns and determine who can actually claim those dependents.

Individuals who claim dependents may also be able to claim the Head of Household filing status. They may also benefit from credits like the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credits, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. These can all significantly impact their taxes.

In cases in which multiple individuals are claiming the same dependents and there are no legal agreements, including divorce, separation or custody agreements, that stipulate who has a right to claim the dependents and take advantage of the credits, the IRS will use a series of rules to decide which claim should be allowed and which should be rejected. The rules that are used examine multiple factors.

The IRS first determines the relationship between the taxpayers and the dependents who are claimed. The claims of parents will be prioritized over those of the non-parents.

Where the dependents lived during the tax year may also have to be considered. If two parents are claiming the same children as dependents, only the claim of the parent with whom the dependents resided for the longest period in the tax year may be allowed.

A family law attorney may advise divorcing parents about what steps should be taken to resolved disputes regarding child custody. The attorney may also work to ensure that divorce settlement terms favor a client's position on child support and other divorce legal issues.

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