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Noncustodial parents can claim dependents on taxes

Divorced couples with children in Jersey City, New Jersey may be wondering who gets to claim the children as dependents on their taxes this year. While the child custody battle may long be over, this can quickly become a heated argument if not properly addressed.

In some circumstances, the parent that gets to claim the children as dependents is easy to determine. Simply ask this question: Which parent has full custody? Whichever parent has full custody is entitled to claim any child he or she has custody of as a dependent during tax season and any other time of the year, for that matter.

In this situation, it is the norm for the custodial parent to spend the most money on and time with the child. This earns custodial parents the right to claim the child as a dependent, in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service.

But what about in a joint-custody situation? Who is considered the custodial parent then?

According to experts, the parent that is considered the custodial parent is the one that spends the most time during the tax year with the child. If parents have spent an equal number of nights throughout the year with their child or children, the IRS determines the custodial parent by examining the adjusted gross incomes of both parents. Whoever has the highest adjusted gross income is considered to be the custodial parent.

Even if this is the case, it does not mean that the noncustodial parent cannot claim a child as a dependent. Of course, both parents cannot claim dependency if they are filing separately, which means that the custodial parent will have to give up his or her right to do so.

In addition, several key factors must be in place for a noncustodial parent to claim dependency.

The couple has to be legally separated or divorced. A child that is to be claimed as a dependent must have been in the custody of at least one parent for half of the tax year. Any children that may be claimed as dependents must receive more than half of their support from their parents.

After these requirements have been met, an agreement must be submitted which shows that the custodial parent does not want to claim dependency; then, and only then, can a noncustodial parent receive the tax benefits of having a child.

Source: Reuters, "Which Spouse Gets to Claim Child as Dependent?," Cynthia Hsu, March 14, 2012

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