When you file your taxes, you’re doing so based on your status on December 31st of the year in question. If you’ve had a baby by December 31st, you can claim her as a deduction. If you purchased a house on January 1st, on the other hand, you can’t claim it until the following year.
If you were married on December 31st, you have a choice. You and your husband can file your taxes jointly, as a married couple, even if you’re separated. Even if you’ve been separated the entire year (from January 1st until December 31st), you’re still married. You’re married until you’re divorced, and though separation may create a grey area for some other issues, as far as the IRS is concerned, separated is not the same as divorced.
If you were divorced by December 31st, on the other hand, you’ll have to file separately.
Alternatively, you could file your taxes as married filing separately. Most couples choose not to do this, because filing this way means that you are placed in a higher tax bracket. There are also restrictions on what deductions you can claim. For example, if one spouse chooses to itemize deductions, both spouses must itemize, regardless of whether that is more advantageous for both.
To make a decision about what is best for you, you may want to talk to a tax attorney, CPA, or other tax professional. Family law attorneys aren’t tax attorneys, and don’t give tax-related advice.
You should remember, too, that ultimately the decision is yours. You may make a decision designed to maximize the refund you receive, but you may be motivated by other concerns, too. You’re entitled to half of the tax return money that you receive, if you file together. Many women are concerned that their husbands will keep the entire refund, or that they’ll have to spend money in attorney’s fees to recover the money that he never distributed. If this is a concern, you’ll definitely have to weigh that with the advice you get from the tax professional. In other words, it may be worth it to you to receive a smaller refund in exchange for avoiding the hassle of having to work with your husband on the tax return, or trust his word when it comes to distributing the refund.
When it comes to filing your tax return, you have options. You should make sure to weigh them carefully and take into account everything that is troubling you.