The rules regarding who may be eligible to claim the child for tax purposes need to be understood by parents who are divorced, separated, never married, or live apart. This information can make filling taxes easier for both parents. Only one person may be eligible to claim the qualifying child as a dependent.

It is important that each parents is clear on who will claim their child on their tax return as only one parent’s claim takes priority.

Custodial parents generally claim the qualifying child as a dependent on their return.

  • The custodial parent refers to the parent that lived with the child for a majority number of nights throughout the year. The other parent would be considered a noncustodial parent.
  • Due to the residency test, it is most likely the custodial parent which claims the child on their tax return.
  • If the child lived with each parent for an equal number of nights during the year, the custodial parent would be the parent with the higher adjusted gross income.

Tie-breaker rules may apply if the child is a qualifying child of more than one person.

  • Even if the child meets the requirements of being a qualifying child of either parent, only one person can claim the child as a qualifying child, provided the taxpayers eligible.
  • In order to understand who is eligible to claim a qualifying child, people should carefully read Publication 504, Divorced or Separated Individuals.
Noncustodial parents may be eligible to claim a qualifying child.

Special rules apply for a child to be treated as a qualifying child of the noncustodial parent.

  • The custodial parent can release the dependency exemption by signing a written declaration or Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, for the noncustodial parent to submit with their tax return.
  • The same applies to some tax benefits, such as the child tax credit, additional child tax credit, and credit for other dependents. The earned income credit, dependent care credit, and head of household filing status are not affected.