Authored By: Christopher Pearsall, RI Divorce Attorney
a.k.a. " The Rhode Island Divorce Coach ℠ "
Question: I have a question on my son being claimed on ex-wife’s taxes. My son is going to be 20 in a couple weeks (scary). He has income, summer work and interest from bonds we had to cash for school. I can put the income on my tax return but, can I now claim him on my taxes? I don't want the added income and not the deduction. I supply all finances for my son's school and living expenses. I don't know how the agreement holds in the legal document stating ex-wife can claim this son? Does this end like the support for him ended when we modified the contract (child support) because of his turning 18 years of age?
Response: If you don't know how your marital settlement agreement with your ex-wife holds or states under what conditions your ex-wife can claim your son then you clearly need to get a copy of that document from your family court file. The wording of that document is likely to be the controlling language and probably has the answers you are looking for. Without it, we are just talking about speculation. For instance, typically if you have a marital settlement agreement with your ex-wife that states that she is allowed to claim your child until he can no longer be claimed anymore then you can't claim the deduction. The child support termination time does not relate to your private agreement with your wife about the tax deduction unless your marital settlement agreement somehow ties the two timeframes together. This is something I have seen done only once in the course of my practice. Unless the marital settlement agreement is somehow worded poorly so that you have a legal way to justify claiming your son as a tax deduction without violating that agreement, then you cannot take the deduction. Without the agreement in front of you, you don't have the information you need to make an informed decision and attorneys such as myself don't have the information we need to advise you properly and accurately based upon your correct circumstances.
As I stated, this is just speculation based upon what may be in that agreement so you can understand that the importance the wording the agreement plays here. Typically if I represent a soon to be ex-wife I also make sure that under some circumstances she may need to realize that if your son files his own taxes and claims his own deduction then she is precluded from taking that deduction too, provided new legislation doesn't state otherwise. You should get the Marital Settlement Agreement from your divorce file at the court and then provide the exact language so that you can obtain legal advice from a lawyer or through this forum that does not involve any form of speculation and we are dealing with facts and not guesswork based upon what you may think is in the document. I hope this has been of some help. Feel free to contact me for a paid advice session once you have the document. Best of Luck to you no matter what you choose to do.