Can Divorced Parents Each Claim Head of Household?

Is it possible for divorced parents to each claim HOH if they both maintain their own home and have the children 50% of the time?

According to Bill Roos, EA, the answer is NO.

To claim head of household the parent has to have a qualifying child live with them for more than 50% of the year.

In addition, there are the rules for children of divorced parents that have to be followed. In the case of divorced parents, one of the parents is always the custodial parent. This is the parent with whom the child spends more nights than with the other parent. The custodial parent gets to claim the child as a dependent, gets to file as head of household (if otherwise qualifies), and gets to claim the child tax credit, and dependent care credit and the earned income credit.

If the custodial parent releases the exemption by filing form 8332, the noncustodial parent can claim the child as a dependent and the child tax credit. However, the custodial parent still retains the right to file as head of household. In the event there are two children and one spends 51% of time with one parent and the other child is with the other parent, each parent would have to be a custodial parent to one of the children and is going to require the parents to maintain very careful records of whose house the children spent the night in.

For more helpful information on individual income tax issues like this one, download your free copy of the Federal Tax Update: Part 1 Q&A document offered by CPE Link. As additional questions and answers are added, the document will be updated. Those who have downloaded the original document will receive all updates automatically.

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by Sue Anderson - Based on 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently program director for online CPE provider, CPE Link. Formerly with the California CPA Education Foundation managing key operational areas including marketing, program development, and distance learning.

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