Can a non-custodial parent have the right to claim a child as a dependent?

Personal Finance October 25, 2012|Print

A divorce decree may give a non-custodial parent the right to claim a child as a dependent for income tax purposes. A custodial parent may also give a non-custodial parent the right to claim a child as a dependent by signing IRS Form 8332. Many parents handle this on a year-by-year basis, but some have signed this form and made it apply to a range of years, such as 2010-2013, or even "all future years." This is not a recommended practice because it leaves the custodial parent's hands tied. Even if the non-custodial parent were to stop paying child support, the custodial parent could not claim an exemption for the child because he or she had signed away that privilege.

A change in the law in 2009 allows a custodial parent to revoke that permission by filling out part 3 of IRS Form 8332. The form must be delivered to the non-custodial parent by Dec. 31 of the tax year prior to the tax year you want the change to take effect. (That is, if the form is delivered by the end of 2010, the change will apply for the 2011 tax year.)

An IRS Web site refers to a requirement for the custodial parent to make "reasonable efforts" to provide the non-custodial parent with written notice of the revocation. One example of a “reasonable effort” would be to mail a letter that requires a signature upon delivery. You may wish to contact a tax professional to assist with these forms.

We would like your feedback on this Personal Finance Frequently Asked Question.