Skip to main content

What qualifies a parent as "head of household"?

Orlando, FL |

Scenario: I lived with the children the entire time since their births, during the separation, now we are going through the divorce and for the tax period 2012 I've only worked 4 months out f the 12. He pays me child support.

+ Read More

Attorney answers 2


Under IRS guidelines, You may be able to file as head of household if you meet all the following requirements:

(1) You are unmarried or considered unmarried on the last day of the year.

(2) You paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year.

(3) A qualifying person lived with you in the home for more than half the year (except for temporary absences, such as school). However, if the qualifying person is your dependent parent, he or she does not have to live with you.

If you qualify to file as head of household, your tax rate usually will be lower than the rates for single or married filing separately. You will also receive a higher standard deduction than if you file as single or married filing separately.

If you file as head of household, you can use either Form 1040A or Form 1040. Indicate your choice of this filing status by checking the box on line 4 of either form. Use the Head of a household column of the Tax Table or Section D of the Tax Computation Worksheet to figure your tax. See Publication 501, linked below.

To qualify for head of household status, you must be either unmarried or considered unmar­ried on the last day of the year. You are consid­ered unmarried on the last day of the tax year if you meet all the following tests: (1) You file a separate return; (2) You paid more than half the cost of keep­ing up your home for the tax year; (3) Your spouse did not live in your home dur­ing the last 6 months of the tax year. Your spouse is considered to live in your home even if he or she is temporarily absent due to special circumstances; (4) Your home was the main home of your child, stepchild, or foster child for more than half the year; (5) You must be able to claim an exemption
for the child. However, you meet this test if you cannot claim the exemption only be­cause the noncustodial parent can claim the child using the rules described later in Publication 501.

Consider checking with a licenesd tax professional for assessing whether you qualify to file as head of household.

Robert Hoffman is a tax attorney licensed in California. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended as a substitute for legal advice. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For competent advice about your particular situation, consult your own attorney.


It is important that you determine if you provided more than half of the cost of keeping up the household. IRS Publication 501 provides a worksheet on page 7 to determine if you paid half the cost of the household's upkeep.

My comments are NOT LEGAL ADVICE. They are for informational purposes only. Actual legal advice can only be provided after you have signed an engagement letter. Answering this question does not create an attorney client relationship. Remember that without attorney client privilege you could possibly divulge information that can hurt your legal rights in the future. I am a tax attorney in Miami Florida. I can help you with your federal tax issues via a secure client portal if required.