My ex and I have 50/50 shared custody of our son. We have no existing agreement regarding taxes in our divorce documents. The past 2 years we have come to an agreement between us on how to handle it, however with my family situation changing recently, I would prefer to alternate years. When I brought that up, however, he said, "By default, the exemption goes to the person with the highest income, so it's my call." (He makes more than I do.)
I would like to know if this is indeed the case. I had someone else tell me that it is more to do with counting the number of actual days the child was with each parent and the parent with more days (even if it's only a matter of a couple of days) is the one that can technically claim the child. What does the IRS base it on if both parents claim?
You are both correct. You must first look at the number of days. The parent that has over 50 percent of the time is the custodial parent and gets the deduction. The income rule is the tie breaker if the number of days are equal.
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Under IRS rules, the parent that has the child the majority of the year gets the exemption. Honestly, though, your decree should be amended to provide for who gets it - alternating is a typical provision. If you both claim the exemption on separate returns, you'll both get audited.
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