A child custody agreement can have serious implications on your tax filing and your taxes overall. This issue should be addressed with your attorney or with your accountant while you are going through the process of negotiating or litigating child custody or a divorce agreement. Waiting until after you have finalized a child custody agreement to investigate the tax impact is not adviseable.
State law on child custody does not dictate who gets the tax deductions. If your child custody agreement is entirely silent on this issue, the parent with primary residential or sole custody will have all of the tax benefits available through the children. That party will be able to claim the children as deductions, and so forth. This can be a significant issue. There are parents who simply assume that if they are paying thousands of dollars per year in support, they will be able to take the children as deductions. Not so. This is incredibly important when you consider that all child support payments are not tax deductible to the payor and they are not taxable to the recipient parent.
Thus, when negotiating your child cusody agreement, you must address the issue of how custody will be structured and who will recieve the tax benefits. This negotiation should be a part of an overall financial scheme that encompasses a consideration of all issues, including child custody, child support, property, alimony, and tax impact.
The ability to claim head of household instead of married filing separate or even filing single can be incredibly important to your overall tax scheme. You can claim head of household if you have your children for more than 50% of the time. Thus, a head of household tax filing should be a part of the overall negiating outline in a divorce or separation situation. A child custody agreement that is silent on this issue is really not a well negotiated or written agreement.
Your child custody agreement can address this issue in a number of ways. If your child custody agreement provides for joint shared custody, it must state who has the children for 50% of the time. If you have two children, you can divide that up so that each parent has the possibility of fiing for head of household. If you simply have joint custody and one parent has residential custody, you can still provide a head of household deduction to the other parent by wording the agreement in a way that allows for that filing.
There are other tax benefits available to parents that have to be considered when negotiating a child custody agreement. Many or most of those tax benefits are variable depending upon your income level ad whether or not you can claim the child or children as deductions. If you are really thinking through your child custody agreement, you will negotiate all of these benefits. The objective should be to maximize all available benefits for both parties, thereby providing an overall highly advantageous tax impact for your child custody agreement.
Jean Mahserjian has practiced family law for close to two decades and is the author of many books devoted to helping consumers understand family law, including the issues of child custody and support. To download free excerpts from her family law books, visit: Winning at Custody
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