Child custody arrangements are often an important aspect in a divorce. Missouri law essentially recognizes two forms of custody — physical custody and legal custody. Some people may seek to address the two issues at the same time — possibly agreeing to joint custody arrangements. Legal custody involves who will have the decision making authority in important matters, such as health care and where the kids will attend school. Physical custody refers to the living arrangements for the kids.

While a divorced couple may opt for joint physical custody, the time spent with each parent may vary from case to case. In some situations the kids may alternate between each parent’s residence every other week, while in other joint custody arrangements the children may spend more time with one parent or the other for a variety of reasons.

As we head toward the tax filing deadline, it is a good time to note that the federal dependency exemption on tax returns may be addressed in a divorce. Federal law essentially indicates that the parent with whom the child spends more nights with during the entire year may claim the child as a dependent on an income tax return. But, the issue is not set in stone after a divorce.

The IRS will respect an agreement made in a divorce case that tends to alter the default rule. Some people agree to alternate years in claiming the children as dependants for income tax purposes. Other arrangements may also be possible.

For instance, if divorcing spouses have several children, the two parents may agree that one parent is entitled to claim one child as a dependent, while the other claims one or more other children.

Notably, the IRS has a form that addresses agreements to modify the general rule related to the dependency exemption – – IRS form 8332. In divorces that were finalized before 2008, a copy of the court order from the divorce will suffice as an attachment to be filed with a tax return.

A parent seeking a divorce may have questions that touch many issues. A Columbia, Missouri, family law attorney can provide advice and representation throughout the family court proceedings to help a parent seek a result tailored to meet the best interests of the child in unique situations.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Children of Divorce: Who Gets the Tax Exemption?” Stann Givens, March 13, 2014