Always talk to an attorney before making any rash decisions regarding your martial status.
If you’re separated but not legally divorced, you may be worried about what that means for you and your former spouse come tax time.
Filing taxes when you’re separated isn’t as complicated as it sounds, but there are some very important things to keep in mind. If you will be filing taxes while separated, it’s best to consult a divorce lawyer to avoid making a mistake that could end up costing you money or trigger an audit for you and/or your former spouse.
Filing Taxes When You’re Separated
In the state of North Carolina, a small number of couples seek legal separation, and only under specific circumstances. For most couples in NC, there is no legal separation. As long as you have not been granted a divorce or a legal separation, you are still married as far as the IRS is concerned.
To be considered single for the filing year by the IRS, you must be granted a divorce by December 31 of the filing year. If you have filed for divorce but were not granted it by the last day of the year, you are still married in the eyes of the IRS.
How Should You File If You’re Separated?
When you’re separated but not legally divorced, you have two choices when filing: you may file as married filed jointly or married filing separately. There are pros and cons to each of these statuses but how you end up filing will likely depend on how amicable your separation is and whether you have children.
If you choose to file jointly, you will need to work together to file your taxes, presumably as you did when you were married. If this is possible for you, it can be a good choice because it allows you to take advantage of the same tax credits and deductions. This is especially helpful if you have children since only one parent can claim each child. Filing jointly allows you to claim the child(ren) together and share the refund and any tax burdens.
If you know filing jointly is not an option for you, you and your former spouse can file separately even though you’re still legally married. When filing married but separately, you’ll each file individual returns with the IRS. During a separation, this can be a beneficial filing status because it keeps your tax liabilities separate. You will not be responsible for paying anything your former spouse owes the IRS and vice versa. Just keep in mind that you will need to decide who gets to claim each of your children. Typically the parent that the child lives with the majority of the time gets the right to claim them on their taxes.
Consult a Raleigh Divorce Attorney Before Filing Your Taxes While Separated
Whether it be a contested, uncontested, collaborative, or simple divorce, it's imperative to give yourself peace of mind and let a divorce attorney help you decide the right filing status for you and your former spouse. Filing your taxes incorrectly can result in headaches years down the road. And those headaches will be even bigger if you have to contact a former spouse to help you handle everything.
At Doyle Law Group, we focus on separation & divorce law. Schedule your consultation at our Raleigh law office by calling (919) 301-8843 or filling out the contact form below.