Deciding Who Gets the Child Tax Credits When Divorced

IL divorce lawyerDivorce makes virtually everything more complicated, especially when children are involved. More time and added communication are required of parents who are divorced or separated; everything from creating a time-sharing plan during summer vacation and agreeing on what expenses each parent is responsible for paying when it comes to college costs, to figuring out who takes the children to their bi-annual dental cleaning appointment involves complexities that single household families do not have to deal with. One more added complexity is that of taxes. Only one parent can claim their child as a dependent on their taxes, and this continues to be a point of conflict months or years after divorce.

What Are Child Tax Credits?

While the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2018 eliminated the dependency tax exemption that parents could claim, a parent who claims dependents still has options for other tax benefits. These include a tax credit for the child and earned income credit. A parent can receive up to $2,000 in tax credit per child under the age of 17 and up to $500 for each child aged 17 to 19 or each child aged 19-24 who is enrolled in full-time college.

A tax credit offsets tax liability. For example, if a parent made $40,000 over the course of a year, their $2,000 tax credit would bump their taxable income down to $38,000. With two children under 17, they would double their tax savings. As such, parents with joint custody often disagree about who gets to claim their child or children as dependents, because only one parent can do so.

A parent who has sole or primary custody of a child will easily be able to claim their child as a dependent and, in doing so, claim the child tax credit. However, in circumstances of shared or “joint” child custody, claiming dependents is more complicated. Two methods of solving this issue is to split the tax credit by having one parent claim the child as a dependent one year and the other parent claiming them as a dependent the next, or if there are an even number of children (two for example), each parent can claim one child each year while the other parent claims the other child.


In order to qualify as a dependent, the child:

  • Must have lived with you for over half the year
  • Cannot have contributed over 50 percent of their financial support
  • Must fall within the specified age range described earlier

In addition, your annual income must not exceed $200,000, otherwise, five percent of the tax credit is reduced by every $1,000 over $200,000.

Reach Out to Our Hinsdale Family Law Attorneys

Divorce, custody, child support, and other family law matters should always be reviewed by an experienced family law attorney. For help with the child tax credit or any other issue, the skilled DuPage County family law attorneys at the Law Office of Martoccio & Martoccio are here for you. Call us at 630-920-8855 today to schedule a free consultation.



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