Colorado courts uphold a child’s best interests as their standard for all decisions, especially in making child custody decisions. The courts also presume that continued close contact with both parents is in a child’s best interests unless a parent rebuts this presumption with clear evidence showing that continued close contact with the other parent is not in their child’s best interests. Although courts in Colorado aim for 50/50 shared custody (parenting time), this isn’t always possible for every divorced family. The result is that some Colorado divorced parents share equal or near-equal custody of their children while in other families, one parent has primary custody and the other has fewer overnights per year with the children. Either way, divorced parents cannot both claim their children as dependents in the same tax year. The way the IRS determines which parent claims a child as a dependent on their tax forms each year depends on the structure of the family’s child custody arrangement.
Who Claims Children on Their Taxes When One Parent Has Primary Custody and the Other Pays Child Support?
During the first tax season following a divorce, many divorced spouses face confusion about which parent should claim their children as dependents. In some cases, this is determined by the judge and included in the spouse’s divorce decree. But typically, if one parent has primary custody and the other has fewer parenting time days, the parent with primary custody is the “custodial parent.” The custodial parent claims the children as dependents on their taxes each year. This becomes a point of contention for some divorced spouses because the non-custodial parent pays child support to the other parent but cannot claim their children as dependants on their taxes. The IRS presumes the children are the “dependents” of the parent with the greater number of overnight visits.
A parent is the custodial parent if they have the children for 183 days with overnights per year or more. The IRS definition of a custodial parent states that a custodial parent is a parent who has the children for a greater number of overnights and provides for the children’s basic daily needs like ensuring transportation to school, arranging and attending medical appointments, and caring for the children’s daily care such as meals, hygiene, and homework. This becomes confusing when one parent has their children for 183 days while the other has them for 182 days, which is as close as possible to 50/50 custody. So, does the parent with 183 days always get to claim the children as dependents on their tax documents?
Who Claims the Children on Their Taxes If They Share 50/50 Custody?
When parents share 50/50 custody of their children, there are a few legal options for determining which parent claims the children on their tax forms that a Denver family law lawyer can help with. According to the IRS, the higher-earning parent claims the children as dependents. If both parents have similar incomes they may alternate tax years with each parent claiming the children every other year. Parents with two children and equal custody may also legally choose to divide the children as dependents so one parent claims one child and the other parent claims the other child. If parents have three or more children, they may choose to divide their children as dependents or alternate years, or each parent may claim one child and then alternate years for claiming the third child.
Speak to Your Attorney About the Tax Implications of Child Custody in Your Case
To avoid confusion about claiming a child on your tax forms after divorce, speak to your Denver divorce attorney about the tax implications of your child custody schedule and discuss your options. Your attorney may request that a judge include orders for how you and your spouse claim your children on tax forms as part of your divorce decree.