Unmarried Parents - Who Claims the Child?

When both biological parents of a child live together but aren’t married, it’s a common question to ask who gets to claim their child on the tax return. Without a specific agreement, the parent who has the highest adjusted gross income for the year has the right to claim the child.

The parent who claims the child as a dependent is entitled to claim all child-related tax benefits, including the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Child and Dependent Care Credit. The other parent isn’t entitled to claim any child-related credits or deductions and shouldn’t list the child as a dependent on their tax return.

The parent who claims the child can use the Head of Household status as long as they have paid over half of the expenses related to maintaining the household. Only one parent can use this status, even if you have two children and each claims a child. That’s because only one parent can be responsible for the majority of the support of the household. If you split all household expenses equally, neither of you would be eligible to claim Head of Household, regardless of who claims the child.