Can I file single if I got divorced?

Tax season is the time of year that can send chills down our spines and make us break into a cold sweat. Now, imagine adding the joys of divorce into that mix. Fun times, right? Okay, maybe not. But fear not, my friend, for I have some tax-related wisdom to share that will make this seemingly daunting task much easier. So, let’s dive into the wild world of post-divorce tax filing, where you’ll discover the ins and outs, dos and don’ts, and even a few hidden gems that might put a smile on your face come tax day.

Short Answer:

Can I file single if I got divorced? Yes, but the devil’s in the details. Join me as we unravel the mysteries of tax filing after divorce and uncover the secrets to maximizing your savings while keeping the IRS happy!

Reasons to Keep Reading:

  1. We’ll decode the tax filing statuses: Single, married filing jointly, married filing separately—who knew filing taxes could be such an adventure? I’ll break it down for you, helping you understand which category you fall into and the implications for your post-divorce tax situation.
  2. Unveiling the hidden treasures of deductions and credits: Divorce might have made you feel like you’re left with the short end of the stick, but fear not! We’ll explore the world of tax deductions and credits available to divorced individuals, uncovering potential savings that could put a little extra cash back in your pocket.
  3. The curious case of property division and its tax implications: From selling your former love nest to dividing retirement accounts, we’ll navigate the treacherous waters of property division and discover the tax consequences that come along for the ride. Brace yourself for some eye-opening insights!
  4. Keeping harmony in the family (and with the IRS): Child custody, support payments, and the delicate dance of claiming exemptions and dependents—oh my! We’ll delve into the tax implications of these aspects, providing practical guidance to help you maintain peace within the family while ensuring compliance with the IRS.
  5. Outsmarting the taxman with strategic planning: Taxes may not be the most glamorous subject, but with a sprinkle of strategic planning, we can make them a little less painful. Together, we’ll explore tax planning strategies designed specifically for divorced individuals, allowing you to optimize your financial situation and maximize savings.

So, my fellow post-divorce tax warriors, get ready to confidently conquer the tax-filing maze. Stick with me, and we’ll ensure you’re armed with all the knowledge and insights you need to navigate this sometimes bewildering terrain. Let’s dive in and make tax season a breeze!

Tax Time After Divorce: Navigating the Maze of Filing as a Free Bird!

I can scarcely think of a more stressful process than filing taxes for stressful events and functions. Even if you have a professional in your corner to help you file, it is not fun to organize and plan how you will attack your taxes in any given year. It’s bad enough that we have to endure weeks or months of preparation, all for the possibility of paying the government money. We are also told to keep receipts, keep track of our spending and do a host of other activities that sound suspiciously like work all year-round.

Fortunately, family law attorneys do not have to worry too much about taxes. Sure, your Attorney will do their best to answer questions about taxes. However, we are not tax professionals, and the information we provide should not be taken as tax advice, per se. Some of the guidance that we give associated with your divorce case may sound like advice, but I can tell you that we are not in a position to advise you about taxes. There are tax professionals out there who are much better equipped to guide you in this way.

Understanding Taxes After Divorce

However, since I know that nobody likes to overthink taxes, it is still a subject that is important in your life. Since there isn’t another area of the law that deals primarily in daily life issues other than family law, I think it is worth discussing as much as possible. If you have decided to move forward with a divorce and are nearing the end of that process, you have more things to concern yourself with regarding taxes.

As we begin to close out the year 2020 and move closer to 2021, I wanted to share some information with you regarding general rules that you need to be aware of that may help you with issues concerning divorce and taxes. If you have questions about divorce, please feel free to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We will be happy to sit down with you for a free-of-charge consultation to help clear up any misunderstandings you may have. If you have additional questions about taxes, you should probably contact a tax professional for further guidance.

When it comes time to file your taxes, will you be single or married?

You may be raising an eyebrow at this point and wondering whether or not the question I just asked is as simple as it sounds. It’s pretty clear-cut whether or not you are married or single. Well, as you get into a divorce case, that question may end up being a little more complicated than you gave it credit for at first.

Keep in mind that the IRS will count you as a married person as far as taxes are concerned unless your divorce is final before December 31st. So, unless a judge has signed off on your final decree of divorce before December 31st, you will be married for all of this year. It doesn’t matter if you are very close to being completely done with your divorce. It also doesn’t matter if you feel like you and your spouse are divorced even though your case has just started. Divorced means that the final order is signed, sealed, and delivered. Anything short of that means that you are technically still married.

On the other hand, if the judge signs your divorce decree on December 27th, it would be as if you and your spouse had been divorced for the entire year. As you can see, a person will be divorced or married for any given year. There are no opportunities to file as a married and single person in any given calendar year.

Divorce Status and Tax Filing Options

There is nothing that you can do that I am aware of to sidestep this rule. Even if you and your spouse have been separated for a year and have been living apart for that entire time, it would still be impossible for you to file for a divorce. The only person’s opinion that matters as far as whether or not you are divorced is the judge in your court. Your own opinion about how you feel (married or not) is irrelevant to this discussion.

Suppose you were married for any given calendar year. In that case, you may be wondering whether or not it would be advantageous to file your taxes jointly or jointly or jointly. Filing a joint return with your spouse (even if you are no longer living together) can be good for you because doing so allows you to take advantage of a larger standard deduction when your incomes are combined on the tax return. You must decide what is better for you and your spouse to give your income. Sometimes if you earn substantially more money than your spouse, it can be to your benefit to file a joint return as a married person.

Why you may not want to file a joint, married tax return

Of course, with every benefit of doing something, at least a couple of negatives are associated with that filing type. One of those negatives immediately comes to mind: you become liable for all the taxes due when a joint return is filed. This is true whether or not a dime of the earned income came from your labor.

For example, if you earned $20,000 in 2020 and your spouse earned $80,000, the IRS can come after you for the taxes due on that $80,000 even though you didn’t make that money. Any bad behavior associated with the filing of taxes that your spouse engaged in (or your tax preparer engaged in on your behalf) could also come back to haunt you.

You should contact a tax professional if you have additional questions about how you can become liable for certain activities of your spouse when it comes to filing taxes. However, if you are working on getting divorced, I probably wouldn’t want to add any more problems to the list of issues you are dealing with now. Getting a divorce is challenging enough. You probably don’t want to add tax problems onto pre-existing divorce problems, mainly caused by the issues you are not doing.

What about filing as the head of household?

Filing head of household can be a great benefit to you. You may file with the designation whether you are divorced or still married as of December 31st. There are advantages to doing so, and I wanted to take some time with you now and go over them.

For starters, filing as head of household means you get to take advantage of a larger standard deduction than filing single or married. This means you can earn more income and still not feel the full effects of jumping into a new tax bracket. If you and your spouse stopped living together no later than May 31st and you paid at least 51% of the cost of maintaining your home for that year, you may file as head of household.

However, you may not file as head of household unless you have a dependent. Usually, this means that you must have a child in your family to file as head of household. Other relatives can count towards this requirement, and the dependent must have lived with you in your home for more than 50% of the year. Remember that your parents don’t have to live with you but can still count as a dependent if you are paying more than half of their living expenses.

One last thing to mention about filing as head of household is that if you file a married filing jointly tax return, neither you nor your spouse can file as head of household.

Can you deduct from your taxes any child support that you have been paying?

This is also a question that we frequently receive- especially from fathers. If you are on the hook for paying thousands of dollars a month in child support, can you deduct those payments from your taxes? The IRS answers that question in the negative. Even if you consistently pay tens of thousands of dollars per year in child support to your ex-spouse, you cannot deduct that amount from your taxes.

If you and your ex-spouse had remained married and not gotten a divorce, you could not have claimed a tax deduction for money that went towards feeding, clothing, and housing your children. Personal expenses are generally not deductible from your taxes. Why should you be able to do so after you get a divorce? The thought process would beg the question. Child support doesn’t count as income for your ex-spouse as children, either. As a result, child support doesn’t count as anything in particular regarding taxes.

What about the cost of divorce? Can you deduct those when doing your taxes?

You spent so much time and money hammering out agreements with your ex-spouse when it came to child custody, child support, and the rest of the terms of your case. Can you take what it cost you in Attorney’s fees and deduct those from your 2020 taxes next year?

As of 2018, the answer to that question is no. Attorney’s fees and legal fees in general that you expended to get a divorce could never have been deducted at any point in time, to be fair. However, you could remove fees you paid towards an activity that generated income. For instance, if you had to pay an attorney to help you draft an order to pay your spouse maintenance after your divorce, those legal fees could be deducted from your taxes.

Whichever parent has primary custody of your kids can claim the kids as dependent once divorced.

Once you are divorced, you may be curious whether you or your ex-spouse can claim the children on your taxes as dependents. The answer to that question is that whichever one of you has primary custody of the kids will be able to claim the children as dependents on your taxes. For the most part, divorced parents have orders in place that name one of them as the primary custodian of the kids.

If you and your spouse have an unorthodox divorce decree that does not spell out which of you has primary custody of the kids, you would need to determine which of you earns more income each year. Whichever one has the higher annual income, you can claim the children on their taxes. This is because parents take a more significant benefit from the deduction because their income is taxed at a higher rate than the lower-earning parent. The more money that is saved, theoretically, the more money that can be spent to benefit the kids.

Going through a divorce can be a challenging and emotionally draining experience. Amidst the myriad of changes and adjustments, it’s important not to overlook the impact it can have on your taxes. Filing taxes after a divorce requires a clear understanding of the legal requirements and procedures involved. Let’s explore some key aspects you need to consider when navigating the tax landscape post-divorce.

Different Tax Filing Statuses: Single, Married Filing Jointly, and Married Filing Separately

Determining your tax filing status is crucial when filing taxes after a divorce. Your filing status affects the tax rates, deductions, and credits available to you. Typically, you will fall into one of three categories: single, married filing jointly, or married filing separately.

If your divorce is finalized before December 31st of the tax year, you would generally file as a single individual. However, if your divorce is not yet finalized by that date, you would still be considered married for tax purposes. It’s important to consult with a tax professional to determine your correct filing status and avoid any potential complications.

Tax Implications of Divorce Settlements and Property Division

During divorce proceedings, assets and liabilities are divided between the spouses. Understanding the tax implications of these settlements and property divisions is important. Certain transfers of property may have tax consequences, such as capital gains or losses. For example, if you receive a house as part of the settlement and later sell it, you may be subject to capital gains tax on any profit.

Additionally, the tax treatment of spousal support or alimony payments has changed in recent years. As of the 2019 tax year, alimony payments are no longer deductible for the paying spouse, and the recipient no longer includes them as taxable income. These changes have implications for both parties involved and should be considered during the negotiation and settlement process.

Child Custody and Tax Implications

Child custody arrangements can also have an impact on your taxes. Generally, the custodial parent is entitled to claim certain tax benefits related to the children. These benefits may include the child tax credit, the dependent exemption, and the child and dependent care credit. However, the IRS has specific rules regarding who qualifies as the custodial parent for tax purposes.

If you are the custodial parent, you can claim these tax benefits unless you provide a written declaration to the contrary. It’s essential to communicate and coordinate with your ex-spouse regarding the tax implications of child custody and ensure that both parties are in agreement to avoid any conflicts or discrepancies.

Tax Deductions and Credits Available to Divorced Individuals

Divorced individuals may be eligible for various tax deductions and credits. For example, if you are the custodial parent and meet certain criteria, you may be able to claim the earned income tax credit (EITC) and the child tax credit. These credits can significantly reduce your tax liability and potentially result in a refund.

Additionally, suppose you are the one who pays for medical expenses, education costs, or other qualifying expenses for your children. In that case, you may be eligible to claim certain deductions or credits related to those expenses. It’s essential to keep accurate records and consult with a tax professional to ensure you take full advantage of the available deductions and credits.

Tax Deductions and Credits

Eligibility Criteria

Potential Savings

Child Tax Credit

Must have a qualifying child as defined by the IRS.

Up to $2,000 per child as a tax credit.

Earned Income Tax Credit

Must meet certain income and eligibility requirements.

Up to $6,728 for qualifying individuals with children.

Mortgage Interest Deduction

Must have a mortgage on a qualifying property.

Deduction for interest paid on mortgage up to certain limits.

Medical Expense Deduction

Must have qualified medical expenses exceeding a certain threshold.

Deduction for qualified medical expenses exceeding 7.5% of adjusted gross income.

Child and Dependent Care Credit

Must have incurred expenses for child or dependent care.

Credit for a percentage of eligible child or dependent care expenses.

When it comes to reporting income from divorce-related assets or property transfers, it’s important to understand the tax implications. For instance, receiving cash as part of the property division is generally not considered taxable income. However, if you receive dividends, interest, or rental income from properties, you must report them on your tax return.

It’s crucial to carefully track and report any income received from these sources to comply with tax laws and avoid potential penalties. Consulting with a tax professional can help ensure you accurately report income from divorce-related assets and property transfers.

Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs) and Retirement Account Division

During divorce, retirement accounts such as 401(k)s or pensions may need to be divided between spouses. This process often involves a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). A QDRO is a court order that establishes the alternate payee’s right to receive a portion of the retirement benefits.

Understanding the tax implications of QDROs and retirement account division is important. Depending on the type of retirement account, withdrawals may be subject to income tax and, in some cases, early withdrawal penalties. It’s advisable to consult with a tax professional and consider seeking legal advice to navigate this complex process properly.

Tax Consequences of Selling or Transferring Jointly Owned Assets After Divorce

Divorce often involves selling or transferring jointly owned assets, such as a house or investments. It’s crucial to be aware of the tax consequences that may arise from these transactions. Capital gains tax may apply if you sell an asset for more than its original purchase price.

However, under certain circumstances, you may be eligible for an exclusion of up to $250,000 ($500,000 for married couples filing jointly) of the capital gain realized from the sale of your primary residence. Understanding the tax implications and potential exclusions can help you make informed decisions regarding the sale or transfer of jointly owned assets.

Tax Planning Strategies for Divorced Individuals

As a divorced individual, tax planning can play a vital role in optimizing your financial situation. Exploring tax planning strategies can help you minimize your tax liability and maximize your savings. Some strategies to consider include:

  • Utilizing tax-advantaged retirement accounts, such as IRAs or 401(k)s, to save for the future.
  • Strategically timing the sale of assets to minimize capital gains tax.
  • Maximizing available tax deductions and credits, such as those related to education expenses or home office deductions.
  • Planning for changes in your tax filing status and adjusting your withholding or estimated tax payments accordingly.

You can optimize your tax situation by implementing effective tax planning strategies and potentially achieve significant savings.

Mediation and Tax Considerations in Divorce Settlements

Many divorcing couples choose mediation as an alternative to traditional litigation. Mediation can provide a more amicable and cooperative environment for resolving disputes. When it comes to tax considerations, mediation can be particularly beneficial.

During mediation, both parties can openly discuss and negotiate the tax implications of various settlement options. By considering tax consequences alongside other factors, such as financial security and child custody, couples can reach mutually beneficial agreements from a tax standpoint. Consulting with a tax professional or incorporating a tax expert into the mediation process can provide valuable insights and help achieve optimal outcomes.

Changes in Tax Status During the Divorce Process

It’s important to note that your tax status may change during the divorce process. If you are separated but not yet divorced by the end of the tax year, you may still have the option to file as married filing jointly or married filing separately. Each filing status has its own implications, and evaluating which option is most advantageous for your specific circumstances is crucial.

Consulting with a tax professional can help you determine the best course of action, considering income, deductions, credits, and potential tax benefits. Understanding the potential changes in your tax status during the divorce process can ensure you make informed decisions when filing your taxes.

Tax Implications of Spousal Support or Maintenance Payments

Spousal support, also known as maintenance or alimony, can have significant tax implications for both the paying spouse and the recipient. As mentioned earlier, starting from the 2019 tax year, alimony payments are no longer deductible for the payer or includable as income for the recipient.

It’s essential to be aware of these changes when negotiating and finalizing spousal support agreements. Both parties should consider the impact of these tax changes on their overall financial situations. Understanding the tax consequences of spousal support can help avoid unexpected tax burdens and ensure proper financial planning.

Tax Consequences of Selling a Home During or After Divorce

Divorce often involves the sale of a jointly owned home. If you sell your home during or after the divorce, it’s important to understand the tax consequences. As mentioned earlier, you may be eligible for a capital gains tax exclusion if the home was your primary residence.

However, you may be subject to capital gains tax if the sale results in a capital gain exceeding the exclusion amount. Consulting with a tax professional can help you navigate the complexities of home sales during divorce and ensure you accurately report the transaction on your tax return.

Tax Implications of Child Support Payments

Child support payments are generally not taxable income for the recipient or tax-deductible for the paying parent. Understanding the tax treatment of child support payments is crucial to avoid any confusion or potential errors when filing taxes.

Proper documentation and record-keeping can help ensure accurate reporting of child support payments. If you have any concerns or questions regarding the tax implications of child support, consulting with a tax professional can provide clarity and guidance.

Claiming Exemptions and Dependents After Divorce

After divorce, determining who can claim exemptions and dependents on tax returns can be a point of contention. The custodial parent has the right to claim these benefits unless they provide a written declaration stating otherwise.

If you have shared custody or an unorthodox custody arrangement, factors such as income and support provided may come into play when determining who can claim the exemptions and dependents. Communicating and coordinating with your ex-spouse is essential to avoid conflicts and ensure accurate and consistent reporting.

Reporting Capital Gains or Losses from the Sale of Marital Assets

When marital assets, such as stocks or investments, are sold during or after a divorce, any resulting capital gains or losses must be reported on your tax return. Calculating capital gains or losses involves determining the difference between the sale price and the asset’s original purchase price.

Understanding the reporting requirements and potential tax implications of capital gains or losses is crucial. Proper documentation and accurate reporting can help you comply with tax laws and potentially minimize your tax liability.

It’s important to note that tax laws can vary from state to state. Some states have specific regulations and guidelines regarding divorce-related tax matters. These may include rules for property division, alimony, child support, or even state-specific tax deductions or credits.

Being aware of the tax laws specific to your state can help you navigate the complexities of tax filing after divorce. Consulting with a tax professional who is knowledgeable about state-specific tax laws can provide valuable insights and ensure compliance with all relevant regulations.

For couples in the process of separation or legal separation, there are also tax considerations to keep in mind. Although you may still be legally married, certain tax benefits and implications may change during this stage.

It’s important to consult with a tax professional to understand how your separation status affects your tax filing options and potential deductions or credits. Proper tax planning can help you optimize your tax situation and set the foundation for a smooth transition if divorce becomes inevitable.

Legal fees incurred during divorce proceedings are generally not deductible for tax purposes. However, there are exceptions to this rule. If you paid legal fees related to generating taxable income, such as fees associated with obtaining spousal support or preparing a QDRO, those fees may be deductible.

It’s essential to consult with a tax professional to determine if any of your legal fees qualify for deductions. Proper documentation and record-keeping of legal expenses can help support your tax deductions and ensure compliance with tax laws.

In conclusion, filing taxes after a divorce requires careful consideration of the legal requirements, tax implications, and unique circumstances surrounding your situation. Understanding the various aspects discussed, such as different tax filing statuses, property division, child custody, deductions, and state-specific tax laws, can help you navigate the process more effectively.

Remember to consult with a tax professional who can provide personalized guidance based on your specific circumstances. By staying informed and proactive, you can ensure proper tax compliance and potentially optimize your tax situation as a divorced individual.


Ah, tax season after divorce – a rollercoaster ride of emotions and paperwork. But fear not, my brave tax-filing warriors, for you are now equipped with the knowledge to conquer the IRS with finesse and a smile. From unraveling the mysteries of filing statuses to uncovering hidden deductions, we’ve journeyed together through the wild world of post-divorce tax filing.

Short Answer:

So, can you file single if you got divorced? Absolutely! But remember, the devil’s in the details. With this newfound wisdom, you can confidently tackle your tax return, knowing that you can maximize savings and keep the taxman at bay.

Embrace the Tax-Filing Adventure:

But wait, there’s more! Tax-filing after divorce is not just about numbers and forms; it’s a chance to reclaim your financial independence and embrace the newfound freedom of being a financial free bird. So, let’s turn this taxing task into an opportunity for empowerment.

As you embark on your tax-filing escapades, remember the tales we’ve shared – the anecdotes of claiming exemptions, the dance of child custody and tax implications, and the triumphs of strategic planning. These stories will guide you through the twists and turns of the tax-filing maze.

Now, go forth confidently, armed with the knowledge and strategies to conquer your post-divorce taxes like a true superhero. Remember, you’ve survived the divorce journey, and tax season is just another adventure waiting to be conquered.

So, my fellow tax warriors, may your deductions be plentiful, your credits be bountiful, and your tax returns be filled with sweet savings. Until we meet again in the thrilling world of personal finance, remember: taxes may be inevitable, but mastering them is a choice. Choose empowerment, choose knowledge, and let’s make tax-filing an exhilarating journey together!


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  1. How Often Do Tax Laws Change and What Can I Do About It?
  2. How Do Taxes Work when You Divorce?
  3. What Happens To Your Taxes after Divorce in Texas?
  4. Children and Taxes Post-Divorce: The Basics
  5. How To Effectively Use the Marital Tax Deduction to Maximize Savings for Your Children?
  6. What You Need To Know About Alimony and Taxes
  7. Taxes and Probate in Texas: What You Need to Know
  8. Are you taxed on money paid as child support?
  9. Is a lump sum payment in a divorce settlement taxable?
  10. Will alimony be tax deductible in 2019 and beyond?
  11. How is alimony taxed?
  12. Does getting divorced affect your taxes?

Frequently Asked Questions: How to File Taxes After Divorce

Categories: Taxes

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