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This Web site contains a compilation of more than a thousand consumer finance  columns written by Tony Novak from the 1980s through 2006, updated and reformatted for maximum usefulness today.  New material was added after 2010.

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New IRS Dependency rules

originally posted: 11/22/2006  reposted: 2/18/2011 This post has not been recently reviewed or revised by the author and may be out of date. If you notice an error or are in doubt, please send a new question by email or ask for an update. Email

Q: My divorce agreement says that my ex is entitled to take the deductions for both of our children but they live with me full time and over the past year he has not paid any child support. Can I take the child dependency deduction this year?

A: This news may surprise both you and your ex - the IRS no longer cares what your divorce agreement says. For the tax year 2005 and after, child dependency exemptions and child tax credit are based solely on four new criteria: 1. relationship - must be your child, sibling or other direct descendant 2. residency - must live with you more than 1/2 of the year. 3. age - under age 19 or 24 if a student or permanently disabled 4. support - the child did not provide more than 1/2 of their own support. Note that you cannot make a legal agreement (like a divorce agreement) to override these new tax laws as was sometimes possible in the past. So in your case your spouse does not qualify based on #2 and #4 regardless of what your divorce decree says or what was allowed in past years. The same criteria is used to determine eligibility for head-of-household filing status and earned income credit.


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