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Taxes, child support and dependency exemptions

Imagine you're paying $1,000 monthly in child support payments. The payments represent a significant financial burden, and -- considering you're paying for the majority of your children's expenses with this money -- you want to know if you can claim your children as dependents on your income taxes.

If you can claim your children as dependents, you'll probably want to take advantage of this valuable tax break. The question is: As a child-support-paying parent, do you have the right to claim your children as dependents?

Which parent gets to claim their children as dependents?

Under U.S. tax laws, only one parent can claim his or her children as dependants. As such, if your spouse is claiming your children, then you're not allowed to. Conversely, if you're claiming your children, then your spouse isn't allowed to.

Under the law, whichever parent is named as the "custodial parent" is the one who gets to claim the children as dependents. The parent who is providing over half of the monetary support for the child has the best chance of receiving the custodial parent designation in this regard. The amount of nights that the child lives with each parent will also determine which parent gets to be the custodial parent.

In select cases, a noncustodial parent may also be able to claim a child as the dependant. Also, a custodial parent can sign the Form 8332 (Release of Claim to Exemption for Child of Divorced or Separated Parents) and give this to the noncustodial parent. This will allow the noncustodial parent to receive the dependent's exemption.

Do you have questions about taxes after divorce?

Your tax obligations and how you file taxes after divorce may be very different after your divorce. To prevent difficulties with the IRS, California parents who have recently finalized their divorces should familiarize themselves with California and federal tax laws as thoroughly as possible.

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