Real Talk Series: Should We File Jointly if We Got Divorced This Year?

Tax Planning

We all know life is complicated. And while taxes often touch upon the most joyful moments in life, many of our toughest times have tax implications as well. “Real Talk” is our new monthly blog series that answers the tax questions that you may find harder to ask. TurboTax is here for you during all parts of your life.

Do you have a Real Talk question? Leave your question in the Comments below.

Q: My husband and I were married for 12 years, and we recently finalized our divorce in June. We have one 9 year old son. We always filed our taxes jointly while married, but I don’t know if I file married or single for 2016 if I was married only half the year. If I file as married, does it make more financial sense to file jointly? I’d like to know my options before I approach my ex regarding our taxes later this year.

A: This is a very good question and a common one. The first thing you need to know is that your marital status at the end of the year determines how you file your tax return. If you were divorced by 11:59 PM on December 31 of the tax year, you will file separately from your former spouse, as single. If you are the custodial parent for your children, you may also qualify for the head of household status, which will give you a bigger standard tax deduction ($9,300 in 2016, $9,250 in 2015). If not, then you will file as a single taxpayer, even if you were married for part of the tax year.

If you have a divorce decree, make sure you review it for specifications about which one of you can claim your son as a dependent. If your divorce decree does not specify who gets to claim him, then the dependent exemption for your son goes to the custodial parent. If you and your ex have joint custody, the exemption goes to the parent who has him the greatest number of days during the tax year.

Remember: if you receive alimony, you have to claim it on your taxes, but not child support. On the other hand, if you pay alimony, you will be able to deduct it on your taxes.

Don’t worry about knowing these tax laws too much. When the time comes to file next year, TurboTax will ask simple questions about your life and give you the tax deductions you are eligible for based on your answers.

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