Taxes and Divorce: When Do You File Alone?

Picture of woman calculating taxesFiling taxes can be a daunting task. In the United States, there are currently five filing options. These options include:

  • Single;
  • Married filing jointly;
  • Married filing separately;
  • Head of household; and
  • Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child.

Determining which filing status to use depends on many different factors. First, your marital status on the last day of December dictates your marital status for tax purposes for the entire year. If your divorce was finalized on or before December 31, then you cannot file jointly.

Consequently, if your divorce is not final, you may choose to file:

  • Married filing jointly
  • Married filing separately
  • Single under certain circumstances

According to U.S. Code § 7703 (a) (2), if you are legally separated from your spouse “under a decree of divorce or of separate maintenance” you are not considered married and may file as single.  However, do not presume you are “legally separated” because you are living apart and a divorce is in the works.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has strict requirements to meet the “legally separated” standard. We encouraged you to confirm your status with a qualified divorce attorney. Our West Palm Beach divorce attorney can help you determine whether you are “legally separated” for tax filing purposes. Although the state of Florida does not recognize “legal separation,” there are multiple factors to consider when filing your taxes during or after a divorce.

Considerations for Filing Taxes Separate From Your Spouse During a Divorce

Filing separately (although not necessarily filing as “single”) may be a good idea under certain circumstances. If your spouse, or soon to be ex-spouse, has past or present legal problems, tax problems or credit problems, it may be more prudent to file separately.

Additionally, when you file jointly, you are each 100 percent responsible for the representations found in the tax filing.  If you believe your spouse may fail to report all his or her income, you will also be 100 percent responsible for all income that was not reported, along with subsequent tax liabilities. Alternatively, if you are worried about your spouse’s tax debts, you can avoid this issue by filing separately.

Taxes and Divorce With Children

If you and your soon to be ex-spouse decide to file separately, you must have a conversation about your children. You may not both claim the children as an exemption. However, one of you should claim the children.

Additionally, one of you should claim the child care credit, if eligible. You both will need to work out who claims the exemption, assuming it was not addressed in the legal separation documents.

Contact Our West Palm Beach Divorce Attorney Today

We recommend speaking with our West Palm Beach divorce lawyer about your situation. A divorce attorney who understands the tax codes can help you determine the best approach for you and your family.

Sometimes, you may be better off filing jointly. Other times, married filing separately is the best option. In some cases, the single designation makes the most sense.

Keep in mind that the IRS allows you to deduct a part of the fees you pay related to tax advice. This can include fees spent analyzing how your pending divorce might impact your tax obligations.

A qualified family law attorney is an invaluable investment in your future. Attorney Eric C. Cheshire represents families across Florida. Contact our office at 561-655-8844 to discuss your taxes and divorce concerns today.