Married couples claim their children as dependents on taxes. While recent changes to the tax code have eliminated dependency exemptions, the ability to claim dependents still allows for other tax benefits. But when couples divorce, what happens? Who can claim dependents after a divorce? A recent report shared the rules and how they can vary.

Most importantly, two parents cannot claim the same dependent. Only one is eligible to do so. Sometimes a separation or divorce agreement will indicate which parent may claim dependents. If it does not, then the IRS looks at several other areas:

  • Are you a parent or non-parent? Parents get preference.
  • With whom do the children live most of the time? That parent gets preference. Often, this is the custodial parent.
  • Do you make more money than your ex while sharing equal custody? If so, you will be given preference because it is presumed you provide more support.
  • Are there no parents claiming the children? If you are supporting the kids and have an adjusted gross income greater than the parents of the children, you may qualify to claim them as dependents.

“The IRS does not handle any disputes up front,” noted the article. “Whoever files their tax form first and claims the dependent receives the credits, and whoever files second will have their tax return rejected.” That is a good reason to talk with your ex about this issue, so an agreement is in place before anyone files. If you have a return rejected for that reason and believe you deserve the credits, you can choose to file a claim through IRS Customer Service.

The article recommends reading IRS Publication 504, “Divorced or Separated Individuals,” for more information. Of course, another great resource is an experienced Bucks County divorce attorney. Call us at 215-340-2207, or email