Can You Claim Your Child as a Dependent?

While tax season brings dread for some, others see it as a time to get some extra money. Many parents may have questions about whether they may claim their minor children on their tax returns. Generally, the custodial parent may claim his or her child as a dependent and take advantage of certain tax credits. When parents get divorced they will oftentimes address who can claim the minor children as dependents and who can claim the relevant tax credits. If no order is in place, the parent with residential custody of the minor children has the right to claim the child as a dependent and claim the relevant tax credits.

Courts routinely address who can claim the children as dependents and who can claim the relevant tax credits. An order entered by a court on this issue may, for example, indicate that the parties shall alternate use of the child tax exemption, or it may direct them to share any refund received as a result of the exemption.

If you don’t know whether you can claim dependents on your return, answering the following questions may help:

  • Has your child (or children) have lived with you in your home for the majority of the year?
  • Are you (and your ex-spouse) filing separate returns?
  • Have you have paid more than half of the cost of maintaining your home for the past year?
  • Have you provided more than half of your child’s financial support for last year?
  • Is your child 18 years old or younger?
  • Can your child file another tax return with another taxpayer?

If you answered yes to these questions, chances are that you are eligible to claim your child on your return. The fact you may be eligible to claim your child as a dependent does not mean that you will actually be able to do this. For example, when you file your return is important. If your ex-spouse claimed your children before you could file, your return could be rejected by the IRS. In these instances, it is best to contact an attorney to help you. Overall, the best approach is to have these tax issues resolved by a court.

The preceding is not intended to be legal advice. If you have further questions about tax issues, including your filing status, contact a lawyer.