It may feel like your child is your dependent because of the amount of child support you pay each month, but that doesn't mean you're automatically entitled to claim your child as your dependent on your income tax return each year. The Internal Revenue Service has specific criteria that you must be meet before you can claim someone as a dependent. In addition, the IRS only allows each child to be claimed on only one person's income tax return each year. So, even if both you and your ex meet the criteria, only one of you can claim the child.
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Qualifying Child Criteria
To determine whether you can claim your child as a dependent on your taxes, the child must meet certain criteria: First, the child must be yours. Second, the child must be younger than 19 at the end of the year, or 24 if he is a full-time student. Third, the child must live with you for more than half the year. Fourth, the child must not have provided more than half of his own support during the year. Fifth, the child must not be filing a joint tax return for the year unless it is only to claim a refund of income taxes withheld during the year. If you are the noncustodial parent, you might not meet the requirement that the child spends more than half the year with you.
Special Rules for Noncustodial Parents
In some separation agreements, the noncustodial parent is given the right to claim the child as his dependent for taxes purposes for some or all tax years. If you meet certain criteria, the IRS will allow the noncustodial parent to claim the child as a dependent. The ex-spouses must be divorced or legally separated, have a written separation agreement, or live apart during the last six months of the year. In addition, the child must receive more than half of her support from the parents during the year. Third, the child must be in the custody of one or both parents for more than half the year. Finally, the custodial parent must complete Form 8332 to release her right to claim the child as a dependent on the custodial parent's tax return.
No Exemptions in 2018
Beginning in the 2018 tax year, the argument over which parent gets to claim the child will be less important because of the elimination of personal exemptions. In 2017, each dependent you claim can reduce your taxable income by $4,050. But, in 2018, that tax break goes away.