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Child Support

Child support is not deductible by the payer, and it does not have to be claimed by the recipient. Your decree should include a definitive ending period for child support not related to the age or any life changes of your children.

A special rule applies for determining who gets the exemption for a child in the case of a divorce or legal separation. If you're the custodial parent, you can claim the child as a dependent.

However, the noncustodial parent can claim the Dependent Exemption and the Child Tax Credit for the child with the consent of the custodial parent. The custodial parent can "release" the child for this purpose using Form 8332.

The custodial parent may still qualify as Head of Household, and may be eligible for the Child Care Credit, Exclusion for Child Care Benefits and Earned Income Credit for that child.

The noncustodial parent can't claim these benefits even though that parent can claim the exemption.

Custody should be spelled out clearly in the decree. If there's any confusion, the IRS may have cause to disaffirm the claiming rights of either parent.

Head of Household Status Several factors will determine if you're eligible to file as Head of Household:

  • You have to be either unmarried or considered unmarried on the last day of the year. A qualifying person must have lived in your home for more than half the year.
  • You must have paid more than half the cost of keeping up your home for the year.
  • You must file a separate tax return,  your home must have been the main home of your child, stepchild or eligible foster child for more than half the year; and you must be able to claim an exemption for the child.

If a person is your qualifying child, that child is a qualifying person even if you can't claim the exemption for that child. But if the child is married, the child is not a qualifying person unless you can claim an exemption for the child.

Any other person is a qualifying person only if you can claim the exemption for that person. See IRS Publication 501 for more detail about the rules for a person who is not your qualifying child.

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