How Can I File Taxes While Going Through a Divorce?

How Can I File Taxes While Going Through a Divorce?

In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
                                                                                                – Benjamin Franklin

Unfortunately, the fact that you are going through a divorce does not change the wisdom of  Dr. Franklin’s quote.  Even while going through a divorce, you will still have to figure out how to file your taxes.  One of the key questions that controls how you can file is whether you were still legally married as of December 31st.  Keep in mind that any tax refund received is most likely marital property and any tax debt owed is most likely going to be considered a marital debt.  Therefore, it is in everyone’s best interest to work together to file the return in the most mutually beneficial way possible.

  • Filing Jointly:  If you and your spouse were still legally married on December 31st, you can file a joint return.  If you choose this option, you should also complete IRS for 8888 which allows you to direct funds to more than one account.  This eliminates the need to secure each other’s signature on a joint refund check.
  • Married Filing Separate:  Even if you are still married on December 31st, you can still file a separate return.  Keeping in mind the issues about marital property and debt.  However, this might be a preferable option if you suspect your spouse may be trying to cheat the government or simply will not otherwise cooperate in filing a return.  If there is a later court order or agreement, you may be able to amend an individual return with a joint return.  Be aware that you cannot amend a joint return with an individual return.
  • Head of Household:  If you are are single or legally separated as of December 31st, you may file as head of household if you have maintained the principal place of abode for the children for the entire year or you paid for maintaining the house for more than half the year.
  • Single:  If you are divorced by December 31st, you can also file single for the tax year.

As with anything tax related, you should discuss your particular situation with your tax professional to determine the best way for you to file.  Before you make any decisions about how you are going to file your tax return, you need to discuss the issue with your attorney.  You need to do this as soon as possible in your case because your attorney may need time to file an appropriate motion with the Court before the April 15th deadline hits.

Photo courtesy of John Morgan

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