Parents should include taxes in custody agreements

When ending a marriage, parents usually have a significant number of things on their minds. From determining child custody to working out both child and spousal support, it is easy for some important matters to slip through the cracks. Since taxes are usually not on people's minds during the fall, California parents may overlook who gets to claim children as dependents on federal tax returns.

Because of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, child dependency deductions are eliminated through 2025. However, some parents can still see tax benefits from claiming  children as dependents. In the case of a divorced couple, only one parent can claim a child in a given year. In general, the custodial parent -- the parent with whom a child spends the majority of his or her time -- is the one who gets to claim the child.

There are some situations in which a noncustodial parent can claim his or her child. Noncustodial parents who provide more than half of their children's financial support could possibly do so. In addition to several other requirements, the custodial parent must also provide a written declaration that gives his or her ex the right to claim a child for that year's taxes. Noncustodial parents may qualify for age-specific tax credits, higher education tax credits, student-loan interest deductions and more.

Parents should be sure to discuss who will claim a child on any given year, and under what circumstances. Some parents in California choose to alternate years and specify so in their custody agreements. This is perhaps especially in situations where they share joint custody. Since taxes are a serious annual matter, divorcing parents may want to speak with experienced attorneys before making any decisions.

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