How to Fill Out a W-4 When Getting Divorced

Changes in your life can create changes in your tax liability. If you are in the process of getting a divorce, the amount of tax you owe changes. Employers use Form W-4 to determine the amount of money to withhold from their employees for taxes. Withholding amounts change depending on marital status and the number of allowances claimed. Divorce not only changes your marital status, it can also change the number of allowances you claim if you do not keep primary custody of your children.

Step 1

Download Form W-4 from IRS.gov or ask your employer for the form. While you can change your W-4 anytime you wish, you must change your form within 10 days of receiving notification of your divorce or legal separation.

Step 2

Complete the Personal Allowances Worksheet to determine the number of allowances you should claim. Claiming zero allowances will ensure that you pay all of the taxes that you owe through your withholding and might entitle you to a refund. Complete the Deductions and Adjustments Worksheet if you itemize your deductions or claim tax credits.

Step 3

Fill in your name, Social Security number and address. While you can change your name on your W-4 before contacting the Social Security Administration, the IRS recommends that you wait to change it until after you change your Social Security card.

Step 4

Check the box for a single person even if your divorce is not final.

Step 5

Enter the allowances you determined that you have when you completed the applicable worksheet on Line 5 of the W-4. Write any additional withholding you want on Line 6.

Step 6

Finish the form with your signature and date and give the completed form to your employer.

Tip

File Form 8822 with the IRS if your address changes when you are getting a divorce. If you are changing your name after the divorce, you must file Form SS-5 with the Social Security Administration to change your Social Security card. If you and your spouse have not decided custody of your children, you should not claim them as dependents. You can change your W-4 again after receiving the custody papers from the court. You can deduct your accountant's fees if you receive advice regarding your taxes during a divorce, but you cannot deduct the court costs and legal fees for the divorce itself.

Warning

Your filing status should remain as married if you are divorcing solely to file as unmarried and you intend to remarry within the year, according to the IRS.

references & resources