Father's Rights to Claim Child on a Tax Return

By Shauna Cuff
The father's right, a child, custodial status
tax forms image by Chad McDermott from Fotolia.com

Depending on the custodial status of the child, a father may be able to claim the child as a dependent when he files federal taxes. When the parents are married, who claims the child is depends upon whether the parents file jointly or separately. If the father wishes to claim the Child Tax Credit, the child must be 17 or younger on the last day of the year.

If the Father Has Custody

If the parents are divorced, but the father has primary custody, he may claim the child as his dependent. He also may be eligible to file as Head of Household to apply a higher deduction if he is not married as of the last day of the year, has paid more than half of the household's costs, and the child lived with him more than half the year.

Paying a higher portion of the child's expenses through child support does not allow the father to claim the child. The IRS considers the custodial parent entitled to claim the child. If the father pays child support, the support payments are not tax deductible. If the father does not have sole custody, but the mother attaches IRS form 8332 to her taxes, she can waive the right to claim the child on her taxes and relinquish that right to the father.

If Parents Split Custody

If the parents split custody of the child 50/50, they may need to alternate the years in which they claim the child on their taxes. If both parents attempt to claim the child in a 50/50 custody split, the IRS uses a tie-breaker rule and awards the claim to the parent with the higher adjusted gross income. In cases not involving a 50/50 split, whoever provides the longer period of care during the year can claim the child.

Additional Tax Credits

If the amount of tax he owes is less than the amount of the Child Tax Credit, the father may be permitted to claim the Additional Child Tax Credit. This credit is a refundable tax credit (meaning it can be awarded even if there is no tax liability) intended to cover any portion of the Child Tax Credit that is not received. This credit has a $75,000 income limit ($110,000 for couples). A father may also be eligible for the Child and Dependent Care Credit for day care expenses.

If Parents are Married

If married parents file separately, only one may claim the child. Parents who file separately regularly may alternate which parent chooses to claim the child as a dependent each year, but they are not both permitted to claim the child unless they file together, and then there is only one deduction. The IRS cross -references the Social Security numbers of dependents to ensure that parents do not attempt to double-claim.

Qualifying Child

In all cases, the child must be a qualifying child. She must be under age 19 (except in the case of the Child Tax Credit, for which the limit is 17), or under 24 if she is a student. The child must be yours by blood or adoption, a foster child, a sibling or step-sibling, or a descendant of any of these. A child who attends college can be claimed, ven if the child is employed, provided the father provides more than half of that child's expenses.

About the Author

Shauna Cuff began writing music reviews for vteens.org in 2001. She wrote technical guides for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and her poetry appeared in Harrisburg Area Community College's "Voices." Cuff currently writes articles that focus on health and parenting. She studied art and English at Pennsylvania College of Art and Design.