What’s My Marital Status for Tax Filing After a Divorce?

Taxes DivorceIt’s everyone’s favorite time of year… tax time.  If you have recently gone through a divorce, it may be unclear as to how that will affect your tax filing this year.  Your marital status for tax purposes is determined based on the last day of the year—December 31. 

If you were divorced as of December 31st, you will be required to file as a single taxpayer (or head of household) for last year.  This applies even if you lived with your spouse as a married couple for more than half of the year.

If you were still married as of December 31, and you and your spouse lived in the same household and were not legally separated, you must file as married.  This can be done using either a joint tax return or separate tax returns.  Be aware that if you or your spouse choose to file separately in this circumstance, the other spouse must file in the same manner.

What Qualifies as “Head of Household”?

You may be able to file as head of household, even if you were legally married on December 31st.  To qualify as head of household, you must be considered “unmarried” on December 31st.  You are considered unmarried if you were legally separated on December 31st or if your spouse did not live in your home for the last 6 months of the calendar year.

Below is a chart that summarizes the different statuses available for your tax filing based on the timing of your separation or divorce. 

Marital Status at 12/31               Legally Separated Living Together in the Same Household 7/1 – 12/31 Dependent(s) Living in the House Tax Filing Status Available for the Year
Married no yes n/a married, filing jointly, married, filing separately
Married yes no no single
Married yes no yes single, head of household
Married yes no yes married, filing jointly, married, filing separately, head of household
Divorced n/a yes no single
Divorced n/a no no single
Divorced n/a no yes head of household
Divorced n/a yes Yes head of household

Claiming Exemptions for Children After a Divorce

A dependency exemption is available to reduce an individual’s taxable income for the taxpayer and each child or other qualified dependent.  While which parent gets to claim the exemption is often addressed in the couple’s divorce decree, it is sometimes not covered.  If it is not addressed in the divorce decree, the parent claiming the dependency exemption must have paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year for the child.  The child must have also lived with the parent claiming the exemption for more than half the year.

Need Help After a Recent Divorce in New Jersey?

Contact Villani & DeLuca’s team of divorce lawyers if you need legal advice concerning your existing or pending divorce in New Jersey.  Call (732) 965-3350 for a free consultation.