IRS Form 8332 Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent - <a rel="nofollow" target="_blank" href="https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8332.pdf">https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8332.pdf</a>
The custodial parent has first priority on claiming the children on his/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. The requirement, to be custodial parent, is that the child live with you MORE than 50% of the time, regardless of what your legal agreement says*.
There is a way to split the tax benefits. For future negotiations with the other parent (and maybe even for this year) the following info may be of use:
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.
*If the child lived with each parent for an equal number of nights during the year, the custodial parent is the parent with the higher adjusted gross income (AGI) (2012 Pub 17 pg 28).