Who Gets the Child Income Tax Exemption After Divorce?

Authored By: Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc. LSC Funded
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My ex-spouse and I are divorced and we have children, how do we figure out which one of us gets the Income Tax Exemption for our children?

Generally, the IRS considers the parent who had custody of the child for the greater part of the year (the custodial parent) to be the parent who provided more than half of the child’s support which entitles that person to claim the exemption for the child. 


Can I agree with my ex-spouse to split the exemption?

No.  The exemption cannot be split, even if the child spends half time with both parents.  If two returns are filed that use the same social security number for a dependent exemption, the IRS will reject the latter filed return and BOTH returns will be subject to further IRS review!  It is best to reach an agreement with your ex-spouse to alternate the years that you will claim the child.  If you are entitled to the exemption under IRS guidelines, but would like to let your ex-spouse claim the exemption for certain tax years, you can file an IRS Form 8332, Release of Claim to Exemption for Child of Divorced or Separated Parents.  Form 8332 can be used to allow your ex-spouse to use the exemption for one year only or you can choose which tax years you are willing to agree to let your ex-spouse use the exemption.


What can I do if I signed a Form 8332 giving my ex-spouse permission to use the exemption and now I have changed my mind?

Form 8332 can be rescinded however BOTH parents must agree to rescind it.  So if your ex-spouse will not agree to let you rescind, you are stuck in the agreement.  The best way to avoid this situation is to limit the number of years that your ex-spouse can use the exemption on Form 8332.


All tas forms can be found online at  You can also access that site to review other Frequently Asked Questions concerning tax exemptions.

Last Review and Update: Oct 13, 2016

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