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Taxes after Divorce: Which Filing Status Is Right for Me?



Filing your taxes after divorce or during marital separation can turn a regular tax-season headache into a migraine. The first step to take is deciding your filing status, which, determines your eligible deductions and effective tax rate. Your filing status depends on your marital status on the last day of the tax year (December 31) for which you are filing a return. If your divorce was finalized before that date, your options are to file as Head of Household or to file as Single.

Who Can File as Head of Household?

 

In order to claim Head of Household filing status, a taxpayer must meet the following criteria:

  • Be unmarried on the last day of the tax year or considered unmarried (in other words, you must not have lived with your spouse during the last six months of the tax year); AND
  • Be the custodial parent (maintain a home constituting the principal residence of a qualified person for over half the tax year); AND
  • Pay over half of the expenses of maintaining the household.

Who Can File as Single?

 

In order to claim Single filing status, the taxpayer must meet the following criterion:

  • Be unmarried on the last day of the tax year If you are still legally married as of the last day of the tax year, your filing status will be Married Filing Joint, Married Filing Separate or Head of Household.

Who Can File Married Filing Jointly?

 

In order to claim Married Filing Jointly status, the following criteria must be met:

  • The taxpayer must be considered married as of the last day of the taxable year; AND
  • Both individuals elect to file joint returns.

Who Can File Married Filing Separately?

 

In order to claim Married Filing Separately status, the following criteria must be met:

  • The taxpayer must be considered married as of the last day of the taxable year; AND
  • Both individuals elect NOT to file joint returns.

There are many financial issues to consider during the divorce process. Though we recommend clients consult a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or accounting professional for tax planning advice, your filing status is an important topic to discuss when meeting with a divorce lawyer.

More on Divorce and Taxes:

 

Divorce and Taxes: Who Claims the Kids?


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