We are divorce attorneys, not tax experts, but marriage and finances are so intertwined that inevitably divorce and taxes do intersect. Each year as the IRS tax return filing deadline approaches, we are increasingly confronted by our clients with tax preparation questions. For specific tax inquiries, we advise that you consult a tax professional. However, we felt it may be useful to share a brief (non-exhaustive) list of some common points that you may want to keep in mind if you are filing taxes while you are going through a divorce or have recently been divorced:
- Just because you have “separated” from your spouse for purposes of your divorce, that does not mean that you are “legally separated” for purposes of tax filing status.
- If your divorce has not been finalized by the last day of the tax year in question, even if your divorce has been finalized by the time you complete your tax returns, you are “married” for purposes of that years’ taxes (i.e. you cannot file as “single” for that tax year.)
- Even though you may hate the idea of communicating with your ex, it may benefit both of you to consider the implications of filing jointly or separately, and to cooperate with each other if filing jointly will yield a more desirable result.
- If you and your spouse are filing separately, you should do whatever possible to coordinate and ensure that you are not claiming the same deductions (e.g. for property taxes or mortgage interest), even if this requires putting your tax preparers in contact with each other.
- If you have children, and are filing separately, make an informed decision regarding who claims the exemptions for the children. While the custodial parent is entitled to claim the exemption per the IRS, spouses are allowed to trade these exemptions. If you are the custodial parent but your (ex) spouse is the higher income earner, you may consider allowing them to claim the exemptions, potentially coming to an agreement where your spouse compensates you as appropriate in exchange for the exemption. (Just another reason why working together can be very beneficial to both parties!)
- Child support payments are not tax deductible, but spousal support payments are.
- Remember to be open and honest with your divorce attorney regarding your tax status throughout the pendency of your case. This will help your attorney to better represent you and your needs as you navigate through your divorce.
Again, these are just some general things to take into consideration as a divorced or divorcing person trying to meet that April 18th deadline! Each couple’s tax situation is unique, and specific questions about your taxes should be directed to a qualified tax professional. There are MANY other specific considerations that may need to be taken into account in your case.
Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.