Divorce & Taxes 101: Filing Taxes After a Divorce

Tax Tips Divorce & Taxes 101: Filing Taxes After a Divorce

Divorce is difficult and no one is immune to it. There have been a number of high profile divorces in the news this year, and last year the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported over 2 million married couples filed for divorce. 

Things to Know about Filing Taxes after Divorce

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 now that you are divorced.

Filing your taxes for the first time is easy with TurboTax

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. 

If you have questions, you can also connect live via one-way video to a TurboTax Live tax expert with an average 12 years-experience to get your tax questions answered.

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.

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. Under tax reform, beginning in tax year 2019 (the taxes you filed in 2020), 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.

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.

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.

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 $18,650 for Head of Household compared to $12,400 for single filing status for tax year 2020.

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.

Claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit if you are eligible

If you are the custodial parent and you incur work-related child care for children under the age of 13 (no age limit if disabled), you may be able to claim a credit of up to $1,050 for one child and $2,100 for two or more kids for tax year 2020. 

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.

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.

TurboTax Has You Covered

Don’t worry about knowing the tax implications of divorce. TurboTax will ask simple questions about you and give you the tax deductions and credits you’re eligible for based on your answers. 

If you have questions, you can connect live via one-way video to a TurboTax Live tax expert with an average of 12 years-experience to get your tax questions answered from the comfort of your home. TurboTax Live tax experts are available in English and Spanish, year round.

Comments (120) Leave your comment

  1. hi,
    i was married for 5 years then i got divorce and those times i was working too,but i didnt get any tax returned back,i worked for 2 to 3 years without getting any tax return,and now i got a bill or letter froem the IRS that i have to pay more than 500,do i need to pay this i mean im not married to him anymore and it sucks coz i didnt get any tax return back when i was working…am i screwed with my ex husband here?this is so frustrating for me.please i need help.

    1. You can not file jointly. As it says at the top of this document, if divorced at midnight on 12-31 (or before), you can not file jointly.

  2. I got a divorce in 2013, at my work I am still claiming Married with 0, I haven’t changed it to single with 0, will I “owe” money come tax time? I may be able to file as head of household but am not sure just yet b/c my child is now working part-time, how much $$ can she make before I’ll not be able to claim her as a dependent?
    Thank you,

  3. My divorce was finalized in Jan. we both share joint custody of our only child. Regarding the filing status, Should i file myself the head household instead of single? Our son is living with me more them half of the year and I am planning to claim my son as an dependent.

  4. I divorced in 2012 we had a tax liability owed to the IRS. I filed my taxes separately for 2012 and all of my refund went to the IRS I was told that I could fill out a form and the money would come back to me instead of going to the money owed during our marriage. Do you know anything about this? Can I go back and do this now?

  5. Divorced the house which was paid off and jointly owned is to be sold and profit split between both do I have to claim this as income since I will have buy a new place to live with this money?

  6. curious….if i file for a divorce today but it wouldnt be finalized until jan 1 2014 …. can me and him file taxes together as married couple since it wasnt finalized until jan 1? or cannot cuz of decree began today.. do they look at “finalized” of marriage or the day i filed? other question do we have the rights to let the court know which day we want our marriage to be finalized? or we don’t have any say in it?

  7. Hi Lisa,
    I and my spouse will be separating legally in a month or so. We do not have any children.
    I am paying a one time alimony to her as an out of court settlement. Can I show that in my 2013 tax deductions?

  8. i live in illinois and my children’s father pay me child support. why is it that i have to share my w2 and tax forms with him? i think it is invasion of privacy, especially since he as came up ti my former jobs putting salt on my tail!! ugh

  9. Hello,

    My ex husband and I have agreed that he can claim the two children as dependents on his income tax return. Today is the deadline and I have not received the release form 8332 to sign yet. Also he just informed me that he is filing a tax extension. We have always split the tax return that he gets for the children. I feel like he is not telling me the whole truth, or maybe tring to avoid splitting the tax return. If he does file an extension is he responsible for providing me copies of all tax paperwork? Thanks

  10. My sister got divorced and she has a child.
    she gets child support and alimony . I am head of household and both of them live with me . can i claim them as dependent as I play role in supporting them .
    please advice

  11. My ex husband and I have been divorced for three years. I have sole custody of our daughter. He continues to file her under his taxes and has done so for all three years. Is there anything I can do because I’m getting sick of not being able to efile and have the hassle of sending additional paperwork every year to the IRS.

  12. Wife and Husband separated for more than 6 months in 2012, divorce not finalized as of 2013. Can wife file her taxes as Married filing single and claim all of the children since she has been the main caretaker of children? (Husband has not filed taxes yet) Are there any ramifications to wife if she files and claims all of the children even though they are not officially divorced?

  13. Hi TurboTaxLisa!

    Very simple question. My wife and I got divorced in June 2012.

    Let’s say we had assets in three clumps
    “W” – the house. Given to her in divorce
    “X” – Investments – Given to her in divorce.
    “Y” – Investments – Given to me in divorce.
    “Z” – Investments – Split between the two of us.

    I think she gets full tax benefits (write offs) for the house for the whole year – correct?. For the investments, I assume we are both tax-liable for profits/loss on “our” investments (“W” and “X”) during the whole year. Correct?

    For Z, how do we handle profit/loss during the year, especially considering we only get ONE 1099 for all of the “Z” investments!
    Do we just take the 1099 for “Z” and “break it up” between us based on how the assets were split?

    Thanks – Not looking for trouble with Mr. IRS!

    Oh yeah, I’m a longtime TurboTax user. Does it contain any in-program tools/sections to specifically handle divorce?


  14. Was divorced and we had a significant split of liquid assets are those taxable as my income?
    Also I did not work/have income for this tax year…do I need to file at all?

  15. My divorce wasn’t final until December 28th 2012. Do we get NO marriage credit for 2012 because we divorced 3 days before the end of the year?

  16. Ok I got divorced this year. My ex and I did have a house (now sold) and we both paid the interest and such on the house. I never got the 1098, but I know enough to call and they are sending me one.
    I am filing single and there is nothing in the divorce decree about the house (papers signed on sale of house before divorce was final). When it comes to using turbo tax will the software divide the amount I put in for me or should I just add half of the amount listed on the 1098?

    1. Turbo tax doesn’t know you split the intrest with the ex. Enter half of the amount, and be sure the ex did the same, otherwise the IRS will come calling…

  17. My ex gets my tax money every year for our children and back support. Can they take my tax money for a child that is not from my ex? ie… My sister and her son lived with me more than half the year so I am claiming them since she did not work. Can they take my check and give it to my ex even though they have no ties to her or my children if I do claim them?

    1. It doesn’t matter how you file or what exemptions you take, you could be married again with children and the IRS would still take your refund until the back child support is paid

  18. I got a divorce in September 2012. I changed my filing status at the same time. Me having paid in as married with 4 kids now filing single with 2 How will my taxes be affected.

  19. I paid my ex wife alimony for almost 4 months after she remarried in 2011. We had to go court to stop the alimony. The judge ordered the alimony stop as of the date of her remarriage. She paid me back the over payments in the 2012 tax year? Do I have to claim it as alimony received and does she claim it as alimony paid in the 2012 tax?

  20. My wife and I divorced. In the settlement she received all of the mutual funds. She cashed some of them and claimed them on her taxes(2011). I just got a letter from the IRS stating that I did not claim them on my taxes(2011) and I owe 3400+ in . My name must have still been on the mutual funds. It says on the form that it was reported to the IRS by others and gives the amount of each withdrawal and interest accrued. If she already claimed them on her taxes why would I receive a note stating that I owe for them as well? Thank you.

    1. Explain this in a letter to and send an official copy of the divorce settlement to the IRS. That should clear things up between you and them. They’ll then go after your ex if she didn’t pay they taxes.

  21. I got married in July 2012, we got separated in November 2012. I filed divorced on February 1, 2013. Can I file single for 2013. Thank you for your assistance.


  22. Hi my ex wife and I were divorced in 2012 and we filed joinrly for 2011 when we were separated. We recieved state and federal tax refunds which we split equally. How should we report this income for our 2012 taxes now that we are filing as single tax payers? Thank you.

    1. Federal tax refunds are not taxable. If you itemized your deductions in 2011 and took a deduction for the state taxes that were withheld from your paychecks then the state refund is taxable. To be fair I would split the amount of that refund. If you did not itemize, then the state refund is not taxable either.

  23. Dear (TurboTax-Lisa),

    I hope you doing well, please give me advice what shall I do in my case which as the fllowings:

    from 2008-2009, I was marry I file married filing jointly.

    in Oct 2010,we start divorce but wasnt final, I file as single (have no kids)

    in 2011, the divorce was final, I files as single again,
    in 2012 Me and my ex back togather, and we agree to file married filing jointly, do we qulified for that? what the Risk, if there any?and does the IRS request any approv?

    Note: we sill have the old marriage certificate, can we use it as approve for the IRS?

    Really appreciate it,


  24. I am active duty Army since 2006. Been married since 2006 with 1 5 year old child.

    My wife “moved home” Aug of 2011, but I thought this was for her to go to school and work, be close to family ect.

    Well Dec 2012 she filed for divorce and it says “seperated since Aug 2011”

    We had our first hearing and the divorce won’t be finalized for another 60 days.

    She is now looking to file her taxes and to claim our daughter.

    She only started working in Aug of 2012 (8 dollars an hour) I supported her and my daughter for the entirety of 2012, Christmas presents, bills, trips ect everything!

    I understand she can file “married, but seperate”

    But aren’t I entitled to at least half of the child tax credit?

    Should I seek a lawyer to see that I get my entitlement of her return?


  25. i think my wife has already filed 2013 taxes for herself. i’m sure she claimed head of household & everything else. however i have not signed an exemption claim of release. she had me removed from the home & a no contact order placed on me in march of 2012. what can i do about this? also i have been paying voluntary child support, any way it can be deductible? thank you for any info.

  26. What can I do legally, in my divorce it states that we alternate our 3 childen. 2 -1 -2. Each year. My ex claimed all 3 of my children for taxes. What can I do to be able to claim my 2 children as I was suppose to for this year?

    1. Hi Laura – My ex did this to me 2 years in a row. I was unable to file my taxes electronically because he beat me to the punch. The system recognized that he had already claimed them and ‘rejected’ my electronic returns. I had to print them out and mail them along with a copy of my divorce decree that showed that we were to each claim 1 child. From what I read, the IRS should have sent him a letter asking that he prove his ability to claim them both. Haven’t heard a thing since. 🙂

  27. I’ve been recently divorced. My ex-husband and I received a tax refund for the 2011 year (last year) . We will both file separate this year for the 2012 year. How/who has to claim the tax refund as imcome? Do we split it? Thanks for any help!

  28. I was divorced in 2011 and filed single with no dependents although i continued to fully support my ex-wife for the entire year who lived in my primary residence. She did not file taxes for 2011 as she had no income. Could i have claimed her on my taxes for 2011 as single with her name as a dependent)? I also have fully supported her in 2012 in which she still lives in my primary residence. If it matters i also live in an RV which is closer to my work and will claim the interest as my secondary residence. So can i claim her for my 2012 taxes as well? Thank you

    1. Hi Mike,
      Was your support considered as Alimony in the divorce decree? If so, she would not be your dependent. You would just deduct it as alimony. If it is not considered alimony the only way you would be able to claim her as a dependent is if she lived with you the entire year.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  29. My wife and I used Turbo Tax during our marriage. We divorced last year. The values Turbo Tax generally imports from the previous year’s return. How are they handled for my filing single return this year?

    1. When you import your return from last year the program will ask if you made any changes. You would then put in the corrected info.

  30. we are divorced living together split bills have 2 kids kids live with us.we have house.we both work.whats best way to do taxes.officially she has primary custody of kids.but we see kids equally since we live in same house.we get along fine

  31. My wife asked for a divorce in November 2012 So its now 2013 the divorce isn’t complete so I see that I must file as married. If she only worked like less the 2 months of the year do I have to split the income with her?

    1. If you file a joint return, you’ll report your combined income on the return. If you file separately and live in a community property state, you may have to report half of the total community income on your tax return. Check with your accountant to be sure.

      As for whether you have to pay her half the income, you likely have a mutual duty to support each other under the laws of your state. So check with your attorney to see what support you must provide.

    2. you can file married filing seperately. It’s the worst tax rate. The best tax rate is married filing jointly, so if the wife is willing, it would probably be more beneficial to you

  32. I married in March 2012, My husband received his green card in July 2012. He has since moved out in December 2012. How do I file? I have a 22 yr old in college. Can I file Head of House Hold? He only got a job in October.

  33. If a couple with one child were married the entire year of 2012 but did not live together the last 6+ months of that year and one member did not have any income that entire year, can the person filing, file ether Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately or Head of Household?

    1. To file as head of household, you must not have lived together for the last six months of the year, and your home must have been the primary residence for your child.

  34. I am getting married in March and have unresolved IRS tax issues with my ex husband is there any way to protect my future husband from these issues? I have filed innocent spousal and have filed seperated for last 5 years. They keep my return we have been divorced since feb 2012

    1. Hi Tj,

      You can file as single if your divorce was granted before year end. But since your divorce wasn’t final until 2013, you will be considered married for 2012 and can’t file as single.


  35. Was married 33 years, the divorce was final on october 31st of 2012, i started to receive my alimony the 2nd week of sept 2012, i do not work do i have to file taxes for oct, nov, dec, and 2 weeks in sept, receive 375,00 a week also am i entitled to any of his income taxes for 2012.

  36. IRS says that “we” owe taxes from her retirement cash out in 2010. They say she rec 13K and owes taxes on that. I specifically remember that the amount she rec was actually about 9K and they said the taxes were taken out b4 she got it. Besides that we are now divorced and I agreed to half the ccards bills and that is all. She had prepaired in her name and I signed “jointly”………IRS now sending me the bill for 3K – which like I said seems like a mistake……..But, am I not excused anyway being divorced and this is new mail .????

  37. I got divorced on October 2011 and then got married on December 2011. I still supported my ex wife for the whole year since she is not working and we have a son together. How should I file my taxes? Should I claim my ex-wife? Thank you

    1. Hi Alonso,
      You have to file married filed jointly or married filed separately with your new wife. Unfortunately you cannot claim your ex-wife as a dependent under the “qualifying relative” rules. If the support you’re paying is considered alimony on your divorce decree then you can deduct it on your tax return. TurboTax will guide you through the entry.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  38. Husband and I legally separated 1 July 2011 and divorced Feb 2012. We both owned jointly a house and a rental property. I got the house and he got the rental. He moved out of the house 1 July. Do we just do 50/50 on both or notfor tax filing? I think it should be 1/3 for him and 2/3 for me on house since paid 1/2 th mortgage on the house for the first 6 months and all the mortgage the last 6 months. Like wise on the rental… 2/3 him paying mortgage on rental and 1/3 me. Help

  39. My husband and I moved to Arizona to start a bring a new business(mine) and he bought a home in his name. We filed for divorce in November this year, and he moved back to Wisconsin. He sold the home, while I have a condo in Green Bay, that was leased until May this year, so we could live down here in the winter. I don’t know if I should file alone, or with my future Ex. He’s in another state, and I have alot of deductions with my condo.
    Any input would greatly be appreciated. I’m on talking terms with him, should we have to file together.


    1. Hi Sandy,
      You are considered unmarried for the whole year if, on the last day of your tax year, you are unmarried or legally separated from your spouse under a divorce or separate maintenance decree. If this is the case, you would be able to file as single.

      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

    2. Sandy,

      As Lisa said, if you were divorced by 12/31, then you must file as single. But if you were still married, you have a choice. If he agrees, you might want to figure the taxes both ways to see which way saves the most in taxes. But filing separately may be your best bet, since you have so many deductions.

      Hope that helps.

      Ginita Wall

  40. I am divorced (Febr 2011) and we have rental property. The decree states that we will split all tax fees, refunds and etc.. I make more money and we have no dependents. Who would be the best person to claim taxes on the property and etc during tax time? Could we split it?

    1. Hi Melissa,
      Not sure what the divorce decree states about the rental property, but if it states you should split it evenly then the decree should be followed. If it does not state specifics regarding the property, it is up to you how you want to split it. You do have the ability to split the rental property and TurboTax software gives you the option to split ownership and automatically makes calculations based on the percentage split. You can also use TurboTax TaxCaster http://turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/ to get an estimate of which option is best for you.

      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  41. Question is:

    If my divorce has been dragging on for 3 years as spouse will not sign msa papers, and I used attorney to solely to represent my interest for alimony income in 2008-9 (divorce filed in 2008),

    Can one deduct from these two prior years on the 2010 tax return attorneys fees paid for

    A. the attorneys fee’s judge order ex spouse to pay, but I am paying,as he defaulted on judges order, back in 2009.

    B. The attorney’s fee’s I paid upfront in 2008 for x dollars? The entire basis of the my hiring an attorney was to represent my interest on the basis of alimony, the other jargon, I can did alone, like the financial statements for the court, turned them into the attorney to file with the court; etc.

  42. If you really want to be an attorney, then by all means, go to law school. But unless you really want to enter the practice of law, don’t do it. If you’re only motivation for going to law school is money, you could be in for a huge disappointment. It is true that the employment prospects in law are not exactly amazing at the moment, and you could find yourself unemployed with huge debts.Nice information.

  43. TD,

    Sorry, but if you were divorced by midnight on Dec. 31, you are considered unmarried for tax purposes, so you can’t file jointly, even though you were married for part of the year. But if you have a child in your home, you might be able to file as head of household, which gives you a better tax rate than single (though not as good as joint filers get).

  44. I am having trouble pulling up my 2009 turbotax return. I was up to the payment screen before 4/15/10 and saved my work so I could print and file later (printer was out of ink). Now I cannot pull up my return. I have to file with Home and Business. I decided to buy the CD version after I had started my online return because I realized I needed to use the program throughout the year for the next year’s return. How can I get my return?

    I had a computer software problem when I got my disk and couldn’t load the .NET framework version. I have solved the problem and reloaded the turbo tax program. Now your site says they have no data for me for 2009.

  45. I need to file my taxes early so my ex does not try and claim my son….How can I file early if I have not receive my w-2 yet?

    1. Hello,

      My ex husband and I have agreed that he can claim the two children as dependents on his income tax return. Today is the deadline and I have not received the release form 8332 to sign yet. Also he just informed me that he is filing a tax extension. We have always split the tax return that he gets for the children. I feel like he is not telling me the whole truth, or maybe tring to avoid splitting the tax return. If he does file an extension is he responsible for providing me copies of all tax paperwork? Thanks

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