Claiming Your Child as a Dependent on Taxes With Joint or 50/50 Custody

Claiming your child as a dependent can give you some serious tax breaks. Below you’ll read about who claims a child on taxes with 50/50 custody in California.

California law states that in split 50/50 child custody agreements, the parent with the higher income can claim the child as a dependent on taxes. However, most cases involve the custodial parent with joint physical custody claiming the deduction.

Considering Your Custody Arrangement

Shared custody, often referred to as joint or 50/50 custody, can be either physical or legal custody. While physical custody involves living with and physically caring for the child, legal custody includes making decisions on the child’s behalf. The IRS only considers physical custody when determining who is eligible for dependency deductions or child tax credits.

Analyze your custody order and reflect on how much of the tax year your child has spent living with you. The more time your child spends with you, the more likely you are to claim them on your taxes. Keeping records of the amount of time you spend with your child can help you out when tax season comes around. If you’re looking to claim a dependent deduction and child care tax credit, speak with one of our child custody attorneys.

Being Eligible for a Dependent Deduction

California’s tax code bases eligibility for dependency deduction or tax credit on where and for how long a child lives during the tax year. However, custody situations are rarely truly 50/50. Unless parents have each spent exactly 182 days out of the year with their child, the parent that spent more time with the child will be eligible for the claim.

When deciding which parent gets to claim the child on their taxes, the IRS typically considers actual custody arrangements rather than custody orders or divorce decrees. If your child spends 51% of their time with your ex, they will be considered the custodial parent; even if your custody order states that you hold joint physical custody.

If a child splits their time equally between parents during the tax year, the parent with the higher adjusted gross income will be eligible for the dependency deduction and tax break. In any other case, the parent that spends more time than the other parent with the child can claim them on their taxes.

Getting Your Ex to Waive the Deduction

If you’re not eligible to claim the child on your taxes, your child’s parent can voluntarily waive their right to the deduction. For this to be possible, you and the child’s other parent must pay for at least 50% of the child’s expenses and have an existing custody order. The custodial parent can waive their right to a deduction by filling out and signing an IRS Form 8332, granting you the right to claim the child as a dependent on your taxes. To claim the deduction, attach a completed Form 8332 to your tax return when filing it with the IRS.

How to Claim the Child Care Tax Credit

For you or spouse to even be eligible for the child care tax credit, the child must be under the age of 13. Parents eligible for the tax deduction are also eligible for the child care tax credit. Also, the child care tax credit cannot be waived and claimed by a Form 8332. To claim the child care tax credit, the child must spend more than 50% of their time with you. The largest child care tax credit a parent can claim is $600.

FAQs About Tax Deductions With Joint or 50/50 Custody

Can both parents claim a child on taxes?

No, only one custodial parent can claim a child as a dependent on their tax returns. In California, only one parent can claim the dependency deduction and tax credit.

Who claims a child on taxes in joint custody agreements?

In a joint custody agreement, the custodial parent can claim the child as a dependent on their tax returns. However, if the child custody agreement is 50/50, the IRS allows the parent with the highest income to claim the dependent deduction.

I provide more than 50% support and hold joint custody. Can I request to claim the child on my taxes?

Noncustodial parents that pay for more than 50% of the child’s support and hold joint custody can only claim the child as a dependent if the eligible parent waives the deduction. Child support payments are not tax-deductible and do not entitle payers to dependency deductions or tax credits.

Related: How Child Support Can Affect Your Taxes in California

Can I claim my child on taxes if I have less than 50% custody?

Noncustodial parents with less than 50% custody can claim the child on their taxes only if the custodial parent waives their dependent deduction. Only one custodial parent can claim the dependency deduction and tax credit.

Does a noncustodial parent have the right to claim a child on taxes?

The only way for a noncustodial parent to claim the child on their taxes is if the custodial parent does not do so. If the custodial parent claims the child on their tax returns, then the noncustodial parent cannot do so.

Contact Us

If you’re wondering who claims a child on taxes with 50/50 custody in California, contact us. Based on your unique legal matter, we’ll match you with an experienced attorney in your local area that best fits your needs and preferences. Your child custody attorney will fight for your right to claim your child as a dependent on taxes.

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