Which Parent Gets to Claim a Child as a Dependent?

When tax season rolls around, the issue of which co-parent gets to claim a child as a dependent may become a hot button issue. This is understandable, given that claiming a child as a dependent often leads to relatively significant tax benefits. Similarly, the parent that claims his or her child as a dependent may be eligible for certain government and educational benefits denied to the parent who does not claim the child as a dependent. It is therefore important to take the issue of claiming your child as a dependent seriously during child custody and child support negotiations. Please also make sure to ask your attorney any questions you may have about this particular legal benefit and challenge so that you are clear about your related rights and responsibilities.

Claiming a Child as a Dependent – The Basics

Most of the time, the parent who has physical custody the majority of days/nights each year is entitled to claim his or her child as a dependent for taxation purposes. In fact, the Internal Revenue Service presumes that this is the parent who will claim the child in question unless a legal exception exists. However, it is possible for a judge to order (or for parents to agree during mediation and/or attorney-led negotiation sessions) that the parent who has the child fewer days of the year may claim the child for some specific reason. For example, if a child spends a majority of nights with his or her mother but receives almost all of his or her financial support from his or her father, that father may be granted permission to claim the child as a dependent. Similarly, a judge may order (or parents may agree to) an arrangement by which parents switch off claiming their child as a dependent every other year until he or she can no longer be considered a dependent.

Legal Guidance Is Available

If you have questions about child custody, child support, modifications of existing orders or any other legal matter related to your role as a co-parent, please do not hesitate to schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney at your earliest convenience. The area of family law is complex and nuanced. In addition, it tends to be riddled with exceptions to general rules. As a result, it is usually a good idea to speak with an attorney whenever you have questions instead of making assumptions about your situation. You may have rights, responsibilities and/or opportunities that you are unaware of. Do not wait until you find yourself in a legally complex situation to call an attorney. When possible, be proactive and connect with a member of an experienced legal team, like a family law attorney in Fairfax, VA, whenever questions occur to you. During our consultation, we can answer these questions and advise you accordingly. Consultations are risk-free and confidential, so do not hesitate to call today. We look forward to speaking with you. 

Thank you to the experts at May Law, LLP, for their insight and expertise in family law.