Carolann M. Aschoff, P.C.

Can you split your dependency exemption?

If you and your spouse have split up and you're filing your taxes separately, you may both be interested in claiming your child as a dependent on the tax forms. After all, it can be very beneficial to get the tax breaks that go along with having a family, and you are paying to help support the child.

The key thing to remember here is that a married couple would file jointly and claim the child one time as a dependent. Even though you aren't married, you still can only claim the child once, meaning either you or your spouse can make the claim -- and not both of you.

Furthermore, you can't split the claim by saying that the child is 50 percent yours and 50 percent your spouse's. One of you has to claim the child 100 percent, and that's all the government wants to see.

Typically, when deciding who can make the claim, you just have to look at who supports the child to a greater extent. If you pay for 60 percent of the child's bills and have him or her at your home 70 percent of the time, for example, you get to make the claim. It can get tricky to decide who provides more support when your custody agreement seeks a fair division, but that's what needs to be done.

Of course, you and your spouse can agree to split up the return on your own, if you're still on good terms and can come to an agreement, but you can only split the money after filing the taxes and getting that return.

Child custody arrangements are important for many reasons, and some of them are recurring. If there are ever changes to the situation in New Jersey, make sure you know how that will impact things like tax filings, dependency claims.

Source: FIndLaw, "Child Custody and Taxes," accessed June 02, 2016

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