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Divorced with 2 children...joint custody....each claims 1 child. How long do I say children have lived with me?

 
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Hal_Al
Level 15

Divorced with 2 children...joint custody....each claims 1 child. How long do I say children have lived with me?

For the child you are claiming say 7 months (more than half the year). Do not enter the other child at all, if you are claiming nothing on him. The interview is confusing and can lead to mistakes. That's how you do what you are trying to do.

That said; for tax purposes, there is no such thing as joint custody, regardless of what your legal agreement says. The requirement, to be custodial parent, is that the child live with you MORE than 50% of the time. One of you has to be the custodial parent and the other the non-custodial parent. 

In the rare case (could probably only happen in a leap year like 2016), where the time that  each parent has the child is exactly equal, then the parent with the higher income (AGI) is the custodial parent, for the purpose of determining who has first priority on claiming the child as a dependent. 
Yes, the IRS expects you to count the numbers of nights the child sleeps at each parent's home. It is allowed  for you to arrange the children's schedules so that one child spends more than half the year with the father while the other spends more than half with the mother. Then you are each the custodial parent of one child.

The custodial parent has first priority on claiming the children on her taxes; regardless of the amount of support provided by the non-custodial parent. The non-custodial parent can only claim the child as a dependent if the custodial parent gives permission (on form 8332) or if it's spelled out in a pre 2009 divorce decree. 

There is a special rule in the case of divorced & separated (including never married) parents. When the non-custodial parent is claiming the child as a dependent/exemption/child tax credit; the custodial parent is still allowed to claim the same child for Earned Income Credit, Head of Household filing status, and day care credit. This "splitting of the child" is not available to parents who lived together at any time during the last 6 months of the year; then only one of you can claim the child for any tax reasons. The tax benefits may not be split in any other manner.

Note in particular that the non-custodial parent can never claim the Earned Income Credit, Head of Household filing status or the day care credit, based on that child, even when the custodial parent has released the exemption to him.

 So, it's good idea to let the other parent know that you will be claiming those items, as many first time divorced parents are not aware of this rule and may try to claim those items, which will cause the IRS to send out letters.

Ref: http://www.irs.gov/publications/p17/ch03.html#en_US_2014_publink1000170897 Scroll down to "Children of divorced or separated parents (or parents who live apart)"

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