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Child Support and Taxes

How do Child Support Payments Affect my Taxes?

Is child support tax deductible? How do child support payments affect my tax return? Who gets to claim the children (Dependency Exemption & Child Tax Credit) on their taxes? Is child support taxable? These are all questions that are quite common regarding child support payments and taxes. Child support has several important tax implications that we will discuss in more detail below.

Dependency Exemption & Child Tax Credit

Who is entitled to claim the dependency exemption and child tax credit once the divorce/child support matter is finalized? With so many other issues in a divorce, people often forget about tax implications and how child support might affect those. This is common with the dependency exemption and child tax credit. Generally, the dependency exemption reduces your taxable income so that you pay less taxes. Conversely, the child tax credit directly reduces the amount the taxes you owe by a certain amount. In situations where the parents are divorced, legally separated or separated pursuant to a separation agreement, or have lived separately for the last six months of the calendar year, the custodial parent will receive the dependency exemption. This issue can be somewhat complex - to learn more click here.

If I Pay Child Support, Can I Claim my Children As Dependents on my Taxes?

Generally speaking, IRS rules only allow custodial parents to claim the dependency exemption for his or her qualifying children. For income tax purposes, the IRS defines the custodial parent as the parent with whom the child lived for the greater part of the year. So, even if you are paying child support for the child's benefit, you will likely be unable to claim your children as dependents on your taxes if you are a non-custodial parent. Although only the custodial parent is entitled to claim the dependency exemption in most cases, a noncustodial parent may be able to claim the exemption if the special rule for children of divorce or separated parents applies.

M&T Practice Pointer

For tax purposes, it is important to determine who is the "custodial parent." The "custodial parent" is the parent having custody of the child for the greater part of the calendar year.

Can the Noncustodial Parent Claim the Children? 

The noncustodial parent may claim the dependency exemption if 3 specific conditions are met and the custodial parent signs a "Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent" (IRS Form 8332), or provides a substantially similar statement to the non-custodial parent that the noncustodial parent may claim the dependency exemption for any qualifying child.

This rule only applies if these 3 conditions are met:

One parent supports child
One or both parents provided more than half of the child’s total support for the year
Parent with custody of child
One or both parents have custody of the child for more than half of the year
Two people getting a divorce or separation.
The parents are divorced, legally separated, or lived apart at all times during the last six months of the year

 Child Support & Taxes FAQs

Q Is child support tax deductible?  
A

If I pay child support can I deduct it from my taxes? If I receive child support do I have to include that amount in my taxes? While these are common questions regarding child support and taxes, many people are surprised to learn that the answer to both questions is no. Child support payments are not deductible by the payor. Consequently, child support payments are not treated as taxable income to the custodial parent receiving the child support payments.

Q Should my Divorce Lawyer Handle my Tax Issues?
A

It's tempting to ask your divorce lawyer to work through the tax issues that may arise in your divorce or child support action. It's important to remember that taxes can be a very tricky area generally. If you believe that you may have tax issues arising out of your divorce or child support action, it's always best to seek the advice of a licensed tax professional.

Additional Resources 

Learn more about related topics like the Dependency Exemption and Child Tax Credit and requesting an accounting of child support payments. 
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