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The tax filing implications of divorce

Divorcing couples in Massachusetts must take the time to work through their assets and determine how the property will be divided. In addition to deciding what will be done with the family home, couples must also take time to review how income taxes will be handled. This is particularly important if there are minor children who can be claimed as deductions.

The first thing to remember is that filing status is guided by very clear rules. Before the divorce is finalized through the courts, couples can either file as married or married filing separately. Filing status is determined by the marital status as of December 31. An alternative to filing as married is to claim head of household status if the qualifications are met, and this can help bump some divorcees into a more favorable bracket.

Dependents are claimed by the person that they lived with throughout most of the year. This is usually the custodial parent. In the case of shared custody, the parents should agree ahead of time on which partner will claim the children. There are many divorces where the non-custodial parent covers the medical cost for their children. Those costs can be deducted even if the custodial parent is claiming the exemption for the child. Alimony payments may be deducted even if the individual does not normally itemize deductions, but the payments must be made in cash and classified as alimony in the divorce agreement for the IRS to allow the deduction.

Working through the tax implications of a divorce can be difficult, and there are many factors to consider. This makes it clear that spouses should look beyond the equitable distribution of assets to ensure that they are protecting their financial best interests in the future.

Source: Intuit, Inc., "Getting Divorced", accessed on Jan. 14, 2015

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