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How should I file taxes when going through a divorce?

On Behalf of | Feb 5, 2024 | Divorce

There are many issues that need to be handled during a New York divorce. Filing taxes is an issue that could easily be overlooked but if your divorce is pending during tax season, how you file your taxes is another topic to address.

To the Internal Revenue Service, you are considered married until you have a final divorce decree filed with a court. However, that does not necessarily mean you must continue to file your taxes jointly during the divorce.

The IRS allows you to file jointly or married but separately. Since you are still married, you are probably familiar with filing jointly.

Filing jointly

Couples who file jointly report their combined incomes and deductions on one tax return. Filing jointly usually results in a better outcome, such as a higher tax refund or lower tax liability.

However, you and your spouse will be jointly liable for any tax liability from a joint filing, even if you are in the process of getting divorced.

You can choose to file married but separately if your divorce is pending and/or you and your spouse are living apart.

Filing married but separately

When you file married but separately, you file a tax return reporting only your own income and deductions. You are responsible for any tax liability but may keep any refund for yourself. You are not required to share it with your spouse.

Filing jointly is not the best choice in some situations. Sometimes filing married but separately results in a better outcome for one or both spouses.

If you choose to file married but separately, you might be able to claim head of household status which generally gives you a better outcome.

Head of household requirements

You must meet several requirements to file as head of household, including living apart from your spouse for six months and paying more than half the costs of the home.

When you find yourself having to file taxes before your divorce is final, it is best to review the results of both types of filings to see which one provides you with the bigger benefit.