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Texas parents: Pay attention to divorce decrees before signing

Upon a divorce, both former spouses will experience changes in regard to their personal income tax filings. Among other issues, the determination of which parent is entitled to claim dependency of their child or children after a divorce is often an issue. Depending upon what the Texas divorce decree states, sometimes non-custodial parents can claim their children on their taxes. One man was allowed to do so, but he failed to follow the instructions issued by the decree. As such, the court later denied him the ability to claim his dependency exemption.

In his decree, the man was allowed to claim his children as dependents on his taxes as long as he remained current on his child support payments and filled out the appropriate paperwork by a certain period of time following the decree. Unfortunately, the man failed to execute the proper form, in this case an IRS Form 8332. He sent an unsigned form in with his taxes for the year 2008, and although he was able to establish he was current on his child support, he failed to follow the instructions laid out in the decree.

The man went to court over the dependency exemptions for his two children. The amount he sought was nearly $4,000, which was the amount he would have gained by claiming the kids as dependents. However, the court ruled that since the form he sent in was unsigned, he failed to satisfy the conditions set forth in his decree. Also, the Form 8332 that he sent in with his tax return was not signed by his ex-wife. The court stated that the probate judge’s decision does not allow the man to circumvent the required custodial parent’s signature on the IRS form.

Although the court was sympathetic to what happened in this case, they are bound by the law, and the man did not fulfill his obligations necessary to claim the kids as dependents. Such a dependency exemption can be helpful to parents required to pay child support, but as illustrated in this case, it is imperative that the stipulations set forth in the Texas divorce decree are followed to the letter. If they are not, parents could very well find themselves in the same situation as this man, and lacking thousands of dollars to which they were provisionally entitled.

Source: Forbes, “Dependency Exemptions – Divorce Court Orders Not Binding On Tax Court,” Peter J. Reilly, Sept. 25, 2012

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