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Who claims child on taxes with 50/50 custody?

Who Claims Child on Taxes with 50/50 Custody

Tax season is upon us, and for parents who share custody of their children, a common question arises: Who gets to claim the child on taxes when custody is split 50/50? Understanding the rules and guidelines surrounding this issue is crucial to ensure both parents receive the tax benefits they are entitled to while avoiding any conflicts with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Understanding Child Tax Benefits

Before delving into the specifics of 50/50 custody and tax claims, let’s first grasp the significance of child tax benefits. The IRS provides various tax credits and deductions to help parents with the financial responsibilities of raising children. These benefits can significantly reduce a parent’s tax liability and provide much-needed financial relief.

Defining 50/50 Custody

In cases of 50/50 custody, also known as joint physical custody, both parents share equal time and responsibility for the upbringing of their child. This arrangement ensures that the child spends an equal amount of time with each parent, providing a balanced and nurturing environment. However, when it comes to tax claims, the rules are not as straightforward.

Who claims child on taxes with 50/50 custody?

Dependent Status and Child Tax Claims

Dependent status plays a vital role in determining who can claim the child on taxes. The IRS has specific criteria that must be met to claim a child as a dependent, which includes factors like age, relationship, residency, and financial support. These rules are designed to prevent multiple claims for the same child and ensure that tax benefits are appropriately allocated.

IRS Guidelines for Claiming a Child

According to the IRS guidelines, the parent who has primary custody for the greater part of the year typically has the right to claim the child as a dependent on their tax return. This means that the primary custodial parent is generally entitled to the various tax benefits associated with the child. However, this is not always the case when custody is split equally.

Primary Custodial Parent

For parents with 50/50 custody, the primary custodial parent is the one who has the child for the greater number of nights during the tax year. If the child spends an equal number of nights with both parents, the parent with the higher adjusted gross income (AGI) is considered the primary custodial parent for tax purposes. The primary custodial parent is typically the one who claims the child on their tax return.

Noncustodial Parent

The noncustodial parent, in the case of 50/50 custody, is the parent who has the child for fewer nights during the tax year. In most cases, the noncustodial parent does not have the right to claim the child as a dependent on their tax return. However, there are exceptions to this rule, which we will explore further.

Tiebreaker Rule

To resolve conflicts arising from 50/50 custody situations, the IRS has implemented the tiebreaker rule. This rule provides a clear mechanism for determining which parent gets to claim the child on their tax return. The tiebreaker rule applies when both parents have an equal claim to the child under the dependent status criteria.

Who claims child on taxes with 50/50 custody?

Factors Considered in the Tiebreaker Rule

The tiebreaker rule considers several factors to determine who can claim the child on taxes. These factors include:

  1. AGI: The parent with the higher AGI is given preference in claiming the child.
  2. Parental agreement: If the parents have an agreement designating which parent can claim the child, the IRS will honor that agreement.
  3. Residence: The parent with whom the child lived the longest during the tax year is usually given preference.
  4. Financial support: The parent who provided the greater amount of financial support for the child is typically favored.
  5. Filing status: In cases where all other factors are equal, the parent with the higher filing status (e.g., Head of Household) is given priority.

It’s important to note that these factors are considered in a hierarchical order, and if one factor determines a clear winner, the tiebreaker process ends.

Agreements and Documentation

To avoid confusion and potential disputes, it’s crucial for parents with 50/50 custody to maintain proper documentation and agreements. The IRS may require documentation supporting the custody arrangement and the right to claim the child on taxes. Documents such as divorce decrees, custody agreements, and court orders should be kept safely for future reference.

Special Circumstances

While the tiebreaker rule and IRS guidelines provide general guidance, there are instances where special circumstances can influence the outcome of claiming a child on taxes. Situations such as children with disabilities, multiple children, or unique custody arrangements may require additional consideration. It is advisable to consult with a tax professional or legal expert to ensure compliance with the specific circumstances of your case.

Legal Advice and Mediation

When dealing with complex custody and tax-related matters, seeking legal advice or mediation can be highly beneficial. Attorneys specializing in family lawcan provide guidance and ensure that your rights and responsibilities are protected. Mediation can also be a helpful avenue to resolve disputes and reach agreements that are in the best interest of the child. By working together and seeking professional assistance, parents can navigate the intricacies of 50/50 custody and tax claims more effectively.

IRS Audits and Compliance

It’s crucial to adhere to IRS guidelines and accurately report your tax information. Failing to do so can result in audits and potential penalties. The IRS may conduct audits to verify the accuracy of tax claims, especially when multiple claims for the same child are made. To avoid complications and potential legal issues, it’s essential to maintain accurate records and provide truthful information on your tax return.

Communication and Cooperation

While tax claims may seem like a divisive issue, it’s essential for parents to prioritize communication and cooperation. Remember, the ultimate goal is to provide the best possible environment for the child’s growth and well-being. By maintaining open lines of communication, discussing tax-related matters, and working together, parents can find mutually beneficial solutions that ensure the child’s financial needs are met.


Navigating tax claims with 50/50 custody can be complex, but understanding the rules and guidelines set by the IRS is crucial. By determining the primary custodial parent, considering the tiebreaker rule, and maintaining proper documentation, parents can resolve conflicts and claim tax benefits appropriately. Seeking legal advice or mediation can provide additional support in complex cases. Remember, effective communication and cooperation between parents are vital to ensure the child’s best interests are prioritized.

Navigating the complexities of child custody law in New York State can be a challenging task, often requiring the assistance of experienced legal counsel. At the Law Office of Ghenadie Rusu, we have the expertise to guide you through this process and the dedication to protect your and your child’s interests.


1. Can both parents claim the child on taxes with 50/50 custody? No, typically, only one parent can claim the child as a dependent on their tax return. The primary custodial parent usually has the right to claim the child, but there are exceptions based on the tiebreaker rule or parental agreement.

2. What if my custody agreement designates the noncustodial parent to claim the child on taxes? If your custody agreement specifically designates the noncustodial parent as the one who can claim the child on taxes, the IRS will honor that agreement.

3. Do I need to provide documentation to support my tax claim with 50/50 custody? It is advisable to keep documentation such as custody agreements, court orders, or other relevant documents to support your tax claim. While the IRS may not require them upfront, having them on hand can be helpful in case of an audit.

4. Can special circumstances affect tax claims with 50/50 custody? Yes, special circumstances such as children with disabilities or multiple children may impact tax claims. It’s important to consult with a tax professional or legal expert to understand how these circumstances may affect your situation.

5. What should I do if there is a dispute over tax claims with 50/50 custody? If you cannot reach an agreement with the other parent regarding tax claims, it is advisable to seek legal advice or consider mediation. Professionals can provide guidance and help you find a resolution that considers the best interests of the child while complying with IRS regulations.

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