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Divorce & Taxes 101: Filing Taxes After a Divorce

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If you are one of the many people who went through a divorce last year, you will be coping with a different tax situation as a result and may even be filing your own tax return for the first time. Here are 10 things you should know.

1. Filing your taxes isn’t as hard as you think 

If this is the first time filing your taxes yourself with TurboTax, don’t worry. TurboTax will ask simple questions about you and will give you the tax deductions and credits you’re eligible for based on your entries, whether or not you are divorced. 

Not sure you want to go it alone? You can also fully hand over your taxes to a TurboTax Live tax expert to do your taxes for you from start to finish or get help from an expert along the way. 

Woman doing tax preparation at her desk.

2. Understand your filing status

Your marital status at the end of the year determines how you file your tax return. If you were divorced by midnight on December 31 of the tax year, you will file separately from your former spouse. If you are the custodial parent for your children, you may qualify for the favorable head of household status. If not, you will file as a single taxpayer even if you were married for part of the tax year. TurboTax will ask you simple questions and will determine the filing status that’s best for you based on your entries.

3. Consider the tax implications of child support

Child support is not tax deductible to the person who pays it, and alimony paid will only be tax deductible if your divorce was already final in 2018. Likewise, the recipient of alimony must claim it on their tax return if the divorce was final by December 31, 2018, but child support isn’t reported as income. 

If you rolled your support together into “family support” in your agreement, that makes it fully taxable to the recipient and deductible to the payer, just like alimony. Now the person paying alimony is no longer allowed to deduct the alimony paid, and the person receiving alimony will no longer have to claim the alimony as income if your divorce was final after December 31, 2018. Divorces final prior to 2019 are grandfathered under the old rules.

4. Don’t run afoul of the special rules regarding support

If alimony payments are concentrated in the first year or two after divorce, the IRS may consider the money to be a non-deductible property settlement. 

Additionally, if alimony is scheduled to end within six months of a child’s 18th or 21st birthday, the IRS may consider the alimony, in reality, to be disguised child support.

5. Review your divorce decree to see who will claim the children as dependents

If your divorce agreement did not specify who claims the children as dependents, then the custodial parent gets to claim them. If you have joint custody, the parent who has the child the greatest number of days during the tax year gets to claim the child as a dependent.

Single woman with a child on her lap sitting on the bed.

6. Claim Head of Household if You Have a Child

If you are considered single on the last day of the year (whether divorced or legally separated), you may be able to take a higher standard deduction for Head of Household than if you file claiming a single status. You can claim Head of Household if you have a qualifying dependent and provide more than half of their support. The standard deduction is $19,400 for Head of Household compared to $12,950 for single filing status for tax year 2022 and $20,800 for Head of Household and $13,850 if you file as single for tax year 2023 (the taxes you typically file in 2024).

7. File first if you are entitled to claim your child but there are issues with your ex

If you are entitled to claim your children on your tax return, but your ex threatens to claim them instead, file early in the year. That way, since you’ve already claimed your children, the IRS will make your ex prove he or she was entitled to claim them.

8. Claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit if you are eligible

In previous years, the Child and Dependent Care credit was not a refundable credit. But for the 2021 tax year only, the credit was refundable if you lived in the United States for more than half of the year. This means that even if you don’t owe any taxes you could get the credit in the form of a tax refund.  

Also for the 2021 tax year only, the Child and Dependent Care Credit expanded the percentage and the child care expense thresholds, so you can get a credit up to 50% of $8,000 ($4,000) in child care expenses for one child under 13 (no age limit if disabled), an incapacitated spouse or parent, or another dependent so that you can work and up to 50% of $16,000 in expenses ($8,000) for families with two or more dependents. 

For tax year 2022 and 2023, the Child and Dependent Care credit has reverted to its prior limits of up to 35% of $3,000 ($1,050) for one qualifying dependent and up to 35% of $6,000 in expenses ($2,100) for two or more dependents and is refundable up to $1,400. 

9. If you are employed, change your withholding on Form W-4

It’s always best to review your withholding whenever there are life changes. Update your W-4 with your employer to make sure that it reflects the most up-to-date information related to changes in your filing status, dependents, or income.

10. Estimate your tax picture

With the new changes in your life, you can get an estimate of your overall tax picture by going online with TurboTax. You don’t pay anything until you file, and in some cases you may be able to file for free. See if you qualify here.

We’ve Got You Covered 

Don’t worry about knowing tax laws. Meet with a TurboTax Full Service expert who can prepare, sign and file your taxes, so you can be 100% confident your taxes are done right. Start TurboTax Live Full Service today, in English or Spanish, and get your taxes done and off your mind.

120 responses to “Divorce & Taxes 101: Filing Taxes After a Divorce”

  1. My ex and I have been separated (not legally) and lived in separate states for 3 years now. Our divorce hearing is on 12/12/18….will I be able to file as single for tax purposes?

  2. Our divorce was final on 9/17/18. My ex now pays alimony of $3,500 per month. Our divorce is set up so I do not pay taxes on my alimony and he does not deduct the alimony. He was giving me $2,500 per month of non-court ordered support for years before we divorced, but we filed jointly. Do I have to pay taxes on those payments in 2018 before the divorce since we will not be filing a joint return for 2018?

  3. Very well written article with full information. Thank you for sharing this great info. It’s nice to know and read about this stuff. I would definitely try to follow these suggestions.

  4. My husband and I divorced several years ago. I now live with him and he supports me. Can he claim me as a dependent on his income taxes? I do not work, unable to find a job. He has a house and I have lived with him several years.
    Please let me know ASAP.
    Thank you

    • Hi Michelle,
      If you lived with your ex-husband for the entire year, he provided over half of your support, and you did not make over $4,050 taxable income then he may be able to claim you as a dependent. TurboTax will ask him simple questions and give him the dependent exemption if he is eligible.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  5. Hi,

    I am finding regarding divorce and taxes from last 2 hours but i haven’t find anything informative. After reading your blog my all doubts are clear.

    Thanks for sharing!!!

  6. I blog frequently and I genuinely appreciate your content.
    The article has really peaked my interest. I will take a note of your blog and keep checking for new information about once a week.
    I subscribed to your RSS feed too.

  7. I filed my income tax a week before i got a divorce i clamed her and her three kids i had planned on splitting it with her. her student loans took well over half. I filed injured spouse. so i will be receiving it all back. is she intitled to any of it?

  8. Which state do I file state income taxes in? The one I resided in all year or the one where the ex spouse lives. I only have alimony as my source of income.

  9. our divorce became final in May 2014. As part of the divorce decree my husband was ordered to file the joint return taxes for 2013 by August of 2014. As of this date, April 10, 2015, he has not done that, although he did pay estimated quarterly taxes. Each of our two daughters lives with one of us- they are ages 22 and 23, each with a baby. My 2 questions are: 1) Is it allowed for me to claim my one daughter and her baby ( who are living with me and my daughter is not working) as an exemption, while he claims our other daughter and her baby? and 2) Can I file 2014 taxes individually ( as per divorce decree) without having filed anything for 2013?

  10. nt court for separation and have to wait 12 months for divorce to be final if i file taxes with him will it interfer with my 12 months wait i live in sc

  11. If my divorce was finalized in May 2014 and I got one of the 4 properties we’ve owned since 2010.
    Who can claim the state taxes on the property I got? My husband was writing the checks to pay the taxes on our properties but the funds were coming from our joint rental income or our joint HELOC loan.

  12. My husband and I have been separated since May of 2014. He was forced out of the home by an injunction for protection. Our two sons stayed with me and I have temporary custody until litigation is over. I offered for him to still see his sons on his two days off a week. He has paid not a single penny to help support his children. He tried getting me to file jointly and agreed to give me 2/3 of the return. I filed as head of household. I am getting more back by leaving him off of the return. I claimed both of my sons since they lived with me the entire year and for the last 7 months of the year he paid no support whatsoever. He will likely owe the irs since he cannot claim the children on his own return and didn’t have any withholding with his employer. Is he entitled to any of my return?

  13. Hi i have a question if you could answer for me i got divorced last august with two children but we agreed as of 2014 we had stated that we would only claim one child every year two my oldest graduate from high school then when he graduated from school we would spent every other year after that with spenting my youngest can he get in trouble for this i do have documents of this so u are know. Please help.

  14. Hi. I have been separated f(we do not have a legal separation in our community property state) for almost two years. My divorce has taken a long time, we are still in the process (a petition on my part has begun in November and I am already getting child support since Feb 2014). Last tax season (2013), we filed for bankruptcy, and even though we’d been living apart by that point by over six months, we had to do our taxes jointly, and any refund was taken by the bankruptcy. I thought I would be divorced by the end of 2014, so I withheld at a higher rate, but my lawyer is slow. This year, I decided to file as head of household. My ex was supposed to help with child care costs as well, but about 90% of the time, he did not. I am the custodial parent and through the child support, I am able to claim them on my taxes (I make more $ anyway than my spouse). He wanted to do his own taxes badly, so I figured he must be getting something back. He knew he was not supposed to claim the kids or the daycare credit. I had the opportunity through my lawyer to see his W-2’s. He did not withhold enough, and by my estimation, will owe at least $1500 on the federal return (I do my own taxes and I am fairly good at it). I have not seen his taxes and I am sure that he will not show them to me. He claims he owes the state and the person that did his taxes, and will not be getting anything back. I know that he would be screaming bloody murder if he owed $1500 (and he is not). Even though I meet all the qualifications to use the “Head of Household,” I am worried I might be liable if he filled out his tax return in correctly. I think something is fishy. Would I be liable for his incorrect return, or if he did it wrong, will it draw attention to me for an audit?


  15. My wife or soon to be ex wife filed jointly and now just got separated this week. Am I entitled to half the refund? I’m not sure how it works and to be honest I’m still dealing with the emotional part of it and want to make sure what the laws are?

  16. My husband and i have a separation agreement and I’m going to file taxes. Our home was agreed to be mine and now he is asking what he is in tiled to on taxes for the house for the time he lived in it this year he moved out June 1 and I had the house remortgaged on Nov 30. same year what is he in tiled to in that case?

    • Hi Karen,
      That decision is up to you, but you can split things like mortgage interest and property taxes if you agree to. TurboTax will allow you to properly file your taxes if you split your deductible home expenses.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

      • Hi Lisa, I served my ex divorced papers april 2019. I believe it takes 6 months before the final divorce. Ive been a stay at home mother for 12 years and have never filed taxes. He will give me alimony and child support. I am head of household with 2 exemptions (do not know what that means) and it’s also said that I will claim my 2 children as dependent. How and when do I have to file my taxes? Do you have any advice for me?

        Thank you in advance!

      • Hello Maria,

        The Tax Reform changes included new Alimony requirements.

        Divorce agreements finalized in 2019 follow new tax rules:

        Alimony is no longer considered taxable income and therefore is not required to be reported on your tax return.
        Child Support was never considered taxable income.

        If you have a W-2 job or are self-employed then you may qualify to file as Head of Household on your tax return. Here is more information on those requirements. https://ttlc.intuit.com/questions/1894553-do-i-qualify-for-head-of-household

        Hope this helps. Thank you

  17. I was divorced in early October 2014 in Wisconsin (community property state). I was the only income earner during the entire year. The judge said my ex and I were to split the income and taxes paid through the end of Sept. My W2 has my total income and taxes paid. I can pull payroll records to show income and taxes through Sept. How do I and my ex report my income and taxes paid off of one W2?

  18. we were married 11 mos.& 2 wks in year 2014.can we file married ? we have no children or property

  19. In the process of going through a Divorce. I was kicked out of the home on April 1st, but continued to pay all the bills for the residence and paid my soon to be ex over $6000 until the end of the year. Around August or September she was awarded temporary custody of the 3 kids. Can I still claim the kids and her, since she does not work and I supported them for most of the year, without court order? She does have court ordered temporary child support and alimony right now, as of September 1st.

  20. as of sept 30, 2014 my divorce was granted. I am the non-custodial parent and work full time. i was granted to claim 2 out of 4 children on my taxes with an opportunity for a buy- out clause. He (the custodial parent) has not worked at all in 2014 so can he claim anything? How does the buy out clause work?

  21. If I was still married to my spouse, and was separated from her in February of 2013, and the electric bill was still in my name where we lived at, and I lived somewhere else, then, how am I suppose to be able to prove that we were separated, if I had no other utility bills in my name, and everything I had sent to me was going to a p.o.box, instead of an address.

  22. I suspected my ex had off shore accounts.Nothing showed up on his tax records,but this was 2009,how could I know if he claimed them later due to the stricter rules regarding taxes and these types of accounts

  23. He asked me for the divorce then moved out took almost the entire house.I want to ask for support.He bought me a car and it breaks down all the time . He has not served me with papers ,The house was mine but I had to give it up I could not pay the bills I only got ss . Living with family .Do I need a attorney ?

  24. My husband name is not on my house we live in and he move out will he be entitle to get a part of my house. I all ready was told if his name not on the mortgage he can’t get anything just asking to make sure thank you

  25. Divorce final 10/2012 we owned an investment property together that has a mortgage I was given the investment in the divorce and my husband was given the marital property we owned. My question is can I claim the rental income, mortgage interest and loss for the property or do I need to split it with my ex-husband. The same on the marital property do we split the mortgage interest or do we just claim properties we were awarded and any write offs for those properties? My ex has been telling me he will file the 2012 tax returns in both our names jointly and has not done it yet and I’m concerned what the reprecussions might be since it is 2014. I filed mine individually for 2013

  26. me and my ex has been divorsed for about 4 yrs and she is remarried. we have joint custody but she has primary. and i pay childsupport and am on dissability. well for the past 6 mths the kids has been stayiing with me cause she and him having problems. but i still pay cs wich she gets and nothing for me to help me while the kdis are here. should i report her to cs services.

  27. i have a question please help me i am never on here so if you can or anyone that knows email me your answer back i would be so greatful please…i am divorce live in chicago IL we have a child together and my question is do we have to give each other a copy of our tax return for proof of income for child support? meaning exchange it?? please help me i need to know the answer on that. thank yuo

  28. I just filed for divorce from my husband. When pulling IRS income forms i found out that he has not filed our income tax since 2010. He files Married, Joint returns. I had no income in 2011 or 2012. I have Social Security income for 2013. Can I file married, single for these years just to clear my name or does this need to be settled during the divorce.
    I want to purchase a home after the divorce and taxes not filed may hamper this process.

  29. If I receive a cash payout of my husbands 403.b retirement funds are they taxable on my end? If so what is the tax rate?

  30. My wife of 16 years decided that she no longer wanted to be married June 2013. Since we lived in a home that her Grandmother purchased for her estate with our 2 minor children she forced me to leave the house. In July or 2013 I moved into a rented apartment. Because I work for the school district I am off during the summer months and my wife had recently gotten a job after being unemployed for 3 years. I took care of the children all summer during the day and sometimes during the nights also. At one point my wife moved our 12 yr old daughter things out on the sidewalk for me to pick up along with my daughter and she lived with me for the next 2 months. No legal papers have been filed as of this date April 2014. My wife has file 2013 income tax as head of household claiming the children and will not provide any of our past tax paperwork for me to use in filing my 2013 taxes. I continue to provide childcare during school vacations and every other weekend. Since she has already filed for 2013 what can I do as far as my filing of taxing also she will not provide me with the childrens ss numbers. Help please she says she already has received the refund and has spent it..

  31. I was divorce by the end of the year. How do i file if both are names are onthe title for the house still and I didn’t live there during the year.

    • Hi Cheryl,
      If your divorce was final at the end of the year you have to file as single for 2013. If you both pay for your house and are on the title you can split the deduction for the home mortgage interest and property taxes. TurboTax will ask you questions related to your home and make the calculations for you.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

      • Lisa –

        Got divorced this year and am planning for taxes next year. In the settlement, I agreed to alimony on a monthly basis. She is now asking if I can pay it as a lump sump each year for the yearly allocation. Am I allowed to pay ahead of schedule (but only up to the yearly amount) and not have it disallowed by the IRS? Or will I run into issues? Thanks!

      • Hi,
        It won’t matter for your taxes whether it is paid as a lump sum for the year or monthly. You will still be able to deduct the amount paid for alimony for the year on your taxes.

        Thank you,
        Lisa Greene-Lewis

  32. My x and I divorced a few years ago I have been filing my taxes as a NY state resident, I have been living in Canada for 6 months I don’t work there since I don’t have a work permit. I don’t have any idea how do I file my taxes this year. I’m in the US for a few weeks and I will go back to Canada. What should I do?

  33. Divorced in 2013. I have custody of one child, no child support being paid. I am going to file Head of Household. Problem is ex has the tax records from 2012 and won’t give me a copy of them. I don’t remember if we received a state refund. He does not work so he won’t be filing a tax return for 2013. How can I find out what my liability is for the state refund if there was one? His address was on the state tax form so the 1099G would have gone to him.

  34. I am receiving retirement.In the divorce i agreed to my ex getting half the retirement.She filed QDRO but they only gave her 20%. I have been giving her the half we agreed upon in the divorce decree. Do i add the difference i have been paying her to the alimony i am paying her on my taxes.

  35. Divorced last year. I have just received a bank 1099 form from a closed custodian account. It has our son name and with his social number on it. Since the statement was sent to me, I would like to file it. Can I file it as part of my other 1099 forms together even it has his name on it? Note that I am going to claim him as my dependent because he lived with me more than 6 months last year. Please help

  36. My divorce became final on Nov 1st, 2013, my ex-wife and I have no children but we did own a home which we sold. We are just beginning to receive the tax documents for interested paid etc, how does that get divided since we have to file separate?

  37. My divorced was final in April 2013. My name is on the parent plus loan for my 22 year old daughter. My ex pays 42% of the loan and I pay 58%. Can we both claim the loan on our taxes since we both have a part in repaying?

  38. My husband has been incarcerated o and of for years. We filed for divorce several years ago but never followed up on it. However, I filed my taxes once or twice as Single/Divorced. I never knew that I could get a tax break if I filed a joint return. We were married in 2001 and I’ve only filed taxes twice since then. (I didn’t make enough to have to file) What kind of trouble would I get into if we were to file jointly this year. Will I be in trouble for claiming I was single last year?

  39. Divorced in September . I world like to file as married to get tax benefit of interest on the house. Am I able to do this?

  40. Sorry, previous question
    Had a lot of typos. I apologize. Hope ya’ll can understand what I asked. I am not an absent parent, but do provide the income he gets and he holds residency but we have 50/50 custody. Decree dsnt specify anything reguarding taxes? He has never worked since kds have lived there??? Help!

  41. Hello, major delima here. Divorced since 2002, 3minor boys.
    I pay my ex child support and m the visiting parent, notablsent by any means. 50/50 custodyp,but he holds
    Primary residency. He lives in his mothers house with our children, has not worked at all. By llaw, because I supply 100% of his income with that child support taken from me..legkally may I claim my children? Divorce decree does not specify. He dsnt collect welflare,just my childl support money. No ,his mother is not on any part of my dvorce
    What so ever. I
    Need help!

  42. Please help! Divorce was final sept 2013. Sold house end of August which was solely in ex name. I was breadwinner of household. I need to file jointly for 2013. Can I ?

  43. My dicvorce was finalize in March 2013. We sold our house in August 2013, since we were both on the loan can we claim anything on the house? It was rented out a couple of months during the year before sold it. Or is there nothing we can do. Any advice is good advice. Thank you.