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How to claim your child on your taxes if you are a single parent

Authored By: LawHelpNY and My Sisters' Place
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Contents

If you are a single parent, you may want to claim your child on your taxes. There a few things you must know before you do.

When parents of a child do not live together, which parent can claim the child on the income tax return?

In general, the custodial parent is the parent who can claim the child on the income tax return. The custodial parent is the parent the child lived with for most of the year.

To figure out which parent is the custodial parent, you need to count the number of nights the child slept in each parent's home. The parent who had the child sleep at his/her home for the most nights in a year is the custodial parent.

Are there any exceptions?

Yes. The non-custodial parent (the parent the child lives with for less than half the year) can claim the child on his/her income tax return if the custodial parent agrees and signs IRS Form 8332 - Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent.

The non-custodial parent (the parent the child lives with for less than half the year) can claim the child on his/her income tax return if the divorce judgment, divorce decree or custody order says so.

What happens when both parents claim a child on an income tax return?

Sometimes, the non-custodial parent claims the child on his/her income taxes first. Do not worry. If you are the custodial parent, you can still claim the child on your income taxes. However, please keep your safety in mind. And, please note that the IRS may review your entire tax return.

  • You will not be able to e-file your income taxes. Your tax preparer will need to print and mail your tax returns to the IRS.
  • You and the non-custodial parent may be audited by the IRS. If you are audited by the IRS, you will need to provide proof that your child lived with you for more than half the year. You can use a custody order, a child support order, school records, and medical records to prove that your child lives with you.
  • The IRS may take back the non-custodial parent's tax refund. This may anger the non-custodial parent. If you have an order of protection against the non-custodial parent, make sure you have a copy of it with you at all times. If you have a safety plan, you should review your safety plan.

Where can I go for free income tax preparation?

To find out about free income tax preparation assistance:

  • Call 311 (if you live in New York City)
  • Call 211 (if you live in Westchester County)

If the IRS audits me, where can I go for help?

You can contact a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic near you. For specific legal advice about a problem you are having, get the advice of a lawyer.

Last Review and Update: Mar 20, 2018
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