Written by Marc R Barnes EA
November 20, 2010
Who gets to claim the children?

In general, if you want to claim your child as a dependent on your tax return, you must be the custodial parent (i.e., the parent with whom the child lived for the greater number of nights during the year). If you are the noncustodial parent, the custodial parent must sign a written declaration that he or she will not claim your child as a dependent, and you must attach this written declaration to your tax return.

Make sure you have the proper written declaration, or the IRS will deny your dependency exemption. To release the dependency exemption, the custodial parent may use either Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent,or a similar statement containing the same information as the form.

If you have a divorce decree or separation agreement that went into effect after 1984 and before 2009, you may be able to attach certain pages from the decree or agreement in place of Form 8332. The decree or agreement must state all three of the following:
  1. The noncustodial parent can claim the child without regard to any condition, such as payment of support.
  2. The custodial parent will not claim the child as a dependent for the year.
  3. The years for which the noncustodial parent can claim the child as a dependent.

The option to attach pages from the decree or agreement is no longer available to noncustodial parents whose divorce or separation went into effect after 2008. These individuals must attach Form 8332 or a similar statement that was executed for the sole purpose of releasing the dependency exemption.
Topic: Marriage and Family