Once you get divorced, your taxes will change dramatically, as well as which status you use and the credits you are eligible for.
If you are used to filing Head of Household status, a divorce can alter your eligibility to use that status to file at tax time. Head of Household status generally has a lower tax liability than if you file using Single or Married filing separately, for those who are not yet divorced.
Typically, eligibility is determined by your custody agreement. Head of Household status can be claimed by the spouse who has custody more than half of the year. If each parent has a different child from the marriage living with them for over half the year, then both parents are able to claim head of household status. This is usually the only way that both spouses are able to file this way.
Even if you claim a child as a dependent, you aren’t automatically eligible to file your tax return using Head of Household. Instead, you must meet a series of requirements, including:
- You maintain the household in which the child lives, even if they are not claimed as your dependent
- You are unmarried at the tax year’s end or you have been living apart from your spouse for over six months
- The house you live in must be your own home and in most cases must be the main home of the dependent, meaning they reside in the dwelling for more than six months out of the year
- You have to support more than half of the household, meaning you take care of all expenses and costs
- You are a U.S. citizen or resident alien throughout the duration of the tax year.
You don’t have to have a dependent listed on your return in order to file Head of Household. You still may be able to file using the status even if your ex-spouse claims a child as a dependent.
Additionally, taxpayers who file as Head of Household may also qualify for the Dependent Care Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit for those which lower income amounts, and can also add other tax credits they normally claim.
There are circumstances in which a taxpayer who is not divorced, but separated from their spouse, may be able to file using Head of Household. The five requirements above must be met for a separated spouse to file as HOH.
You should review your filing status and the criteria carefully before submitting your tax return. You can save money, and may even qualify for additional credits or deductions depending on your status.