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New Tax Rules Require Only 1 Divorced Parent to Claim Child on Taxes

Divorce will become more complicated this year when resolving the issue of which parent can claim children on taxes, as the U.S. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act now requires just one eligible parent despite having joint custody.

This means legal counsel will be more important than ever. If you live in Utah, a child custody attorney in Salt Lake City could explain the nuances of the new rules in your case. When choosing legal representation, it’s better to find a lawyer who specializes in different aspects of family law.

Determining Tax Eligibility

As early as now, you should have a written agreement on which parent can claim children on taxes for a certain year or over the long term. Couples with an even number of kids may choose to divide equal responsibility. As an example, a divorced couple with two children could just claim one of their dependents on taxes every year.

In case there is an uneven number of qualified dependents, you could decide to claim them on alternating years. Just be sure that you have an equal amount of responsibility before claiming a kid on taxes since the IRS implements strict guidelines on identifying eligible dependents.

Who Qualifies as a Dependent?

A pre-existing tax agreement can only do so much, as divorced parents also should be aware of the eligibility requirements for dependents. Biological children immediately become qualified as dependents if they are below 19 years old at the end of a specific tax year. Those who are below 24 years old can also qualify if they have been studying for at least five months within that year.

Permanently disabled children qualify as dependents regardless of their age. They should have lived with you for more than six months within a year, while providing most of the financial support during the same period.

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Money Matters 

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act also repealed the dependency exemption between 2018 and 2025, but the government provided an alternative by reducing your payable taxes through a tax credit. It’s the opposite of an exemption that decreases your taxable income.

Let’s say you are qualified for a $2,000 tax credit for a child under 17 years old. Instead of receiving the amount, it will only be deducted to the total amount that you owe to the IRS. The actual amount will vary based on your income and specific circumstances. Remember that the IRS will reject tax filings from couples who claim the same dependent, which will then require both of you to explain how it happened. Couples would have to wait as long as three months to learn about the IRS’ decision on which one of them is the eligible parent.

The spouse with the higher income typically has the right to claim their children as dependents, but this shouldn’t be the case if you provided intangible contributions like time and effort for taking care of the child. It’s up to a lawyer to justify your right to claim a child on taxes, so you should already be speaking to a competent family law attorney at this point.

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