“Mommy and Daddy can’t get along anymore, so we’re going to get a divorce, but we still love you.” Anonymous
Famous last words! Now the Divorce is over and the divorced parents have to deal with each other on working out who may use the tax deductions on the child’s expenses. This is a very serious tax matter for both parents since if done incorrectly; both parties could be audited, with fines, penalties and much ill feeling. Working together on applying for deductions correctly is a good start on joint parenting of your child. You may have both made the decision not to be together, but you should continue after a divorce to make decisions on your child and his/her well-being.
Dependent Exception for Children
A qualifying child for purposes of the child tax credit:
1. Is your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, or a descendant of any of them
2. Under age of 17 at the end of 2011,
3. Did you provide over half of his or her own support for 2011,
4. Did they live with you for more than half of 2011 and are you “the custodial parent”.
5. Did you claim them as dependent on your return?
6. Did you not file a joint return for the year and
7. Are you a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national, or a U.S. resident alien?
The custodial parent is entitled to take this exemption for their child since the child has lived over 50% of the time with this parent and also provides over 50% of the child’s support.
Then noncustodial parent may be able to take the deduction in specific cases (Non-Custodial Parent Rule):
1. A Custodial parent signs a written IRS declaration giving the noncustodial parent the right to claim the designated child as a dependent for the year.
2. If combined, both parents provide more than half of the child’s support
3. The parents are divorced or separated under a written agreement at the end of the year or have lived apart during the last six months of the year.
4. The child lives with the noncustodial parent more than half the year.
When a parent has equal joint physical custody of the child, it is problematic as to which parent is entitled to the exemption. To avoid the unnecessary expense of confronting this issue both parents should try to come to an agreement as to who will use the child exemption for the year and have the other parent sign an IRS declaration as to the exemption. Always keep a date and time log of when the child is in residence with you during the year and the expenses incurred on their behalf. This log may be very important in resolving many problems by establishing possession times of your child and can be strong evidence in a court of law.
When these requirements are met, the noncustodial parent is eligible for tax breaks with the designated child.
Dependency Exemption Deduction: $3,700 for 2011 and $3,800 for 2012.
Child Tax Credit: This credit is worth up to $1,000 for each eligible child.
Higher Education Tax Credits: American Opportunity can be worth up to $2,5000 during first four years of child’s college education. The Lifetime Learning credit can be worth up to $2,000 and covers usually any higher education tuition costs.
Student Loan Interest Deduction: A deduction up to $2,500 on qualified student loan interest paid by the parent.
Tuition Deduction: The deduction is up to $4,000 for higher education tuition and mandatory enrollment fees.
The noncustodial parent can usually claim the tax breaks below as long as the support and the custody requirements of the noncustodial parent rule are met. The custodial parent can also usually claim these breaks.
1. Itemized deductions for the child’s medical expenses paid by parent.
2. Tax free employer provided healthcare benefits for the child
3. Tax free heath savings account (HAS) distributions to cover the child’s medical expenses
Only A Custodial Parent Is Allowed Tax Breaks:
Head of Household (HOH) Filing: This filing is better than filing as a single taxpayer since the standard deduction is larger and tax brackets are looser.
Tax Free Childcare Assistance: Under an employer plan up to $5,000 in federal income tax free reimbursement for child care expenses.
Earned Income Tax Credit: In 2012, this credit is worth up to $3,169 for one child and up to $5,891 FOR THREE OR MORE CHILDREN. As a parent’s income goes up, the credit is phased out.
Child Care Tax Credit: This credit of between $600 to $1500 for one child, and $1,200 to $2,100 for two or more children, based on a parent’s income.
Under Texas legislation the courts have a right to temporarily amend certain existing orders concerning a parent who is ordered to military deployment, military mobilization or temporary military duty. This legislation was set into Texas law, beginning September 1, 2009.
If a conservator is ordered to military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty that involves moving a substantial distance from the conservator’s residence so as to materially affect the conservator’s ability to exercise the conservator’s rights and duties in relation to his or her child, either conservator may file for an order under subchapter (a) of Section 153.702 of the Texas Family Code.
The Court may then render a temporary order in a proceeding under this subchapter regarding:
1. possession of or access to the child; or
2. child support.
A temporary order of the court under this subchapter may grant rights to and impose duties on a designated person (with certain limitations) regarding the child, except the court may not require the designated person to pay child support.
After a conservator’s military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty is concluded, and the conservator returns to the conservator’s usual residence, the temporary orders under this section terminate and the rights of all affected parties are governed by the terms of any court order that was applicable before the conservator was not ordered to military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty.
Further, if the conservator with the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child is ordered to military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty, the court may order appointment of a designated person to exercise the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child during the military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty in the following order of preference:
1. the conservator who does not have the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child;
2. if appointing the conservator described by Subdivision (1) is not in the child’s best interest, a designated person chosen by the conservator with the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child; or
3. if appointing the conservator described by Subdivision (1) or the person chosen under Subdivision (2) is not in the child’s best interest, another person chosen by the court.
A designated person named in a temporary order rendered under this section has the rights and duties of a nonparent appointed as sole managing conservator under Section 153.371 of the Texas Family Code.
The court may limit or expand the rights of a nonparent named as a designated person in a temporary order rendered under this section as appropriate for the best interest of the child.
If the court appoints the conservator without the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child, the court may award visitation with the child to a designated person chosen by the conservator with the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child.
1. The periods of visitation shall be the same as the visitation to which the conservator without the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child was entitled under the court order in effect immediately before the date the temporary order.
2. The temporary order for visitation must provide that
a. the designated person under this section has the right to possession of the child for the periods and in the manner in which the conservator without the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child is entitled under the court order in effect immediately before the date of temporary order.
b. The child’s other conservator and the designated person under this section are subject to the requirements of Section 153.316(a) with the designated person considered for purposes of that section to be the possessory conservator;
c. The designated person under this section has the rights and duties of a nonparent possessory conservator under Section 153.376(a) during the period that the person has possession of the child; and
d. The designated person under this section is subject to any provision in a court order restricting or prohibiting access to the child by any specified individual.
3. The court may limit or expand the rights of a nonparent designated person named in a temporary order under this section as appropriate for the best interest of the child.
If the parent without exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child is ordered to military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty, the court may award visitation with the child to a designated person chosen by such conservator if the visitation is in the best interest of the child. The temporary order for visitation must provide that:
1. the designated person under this section has the right to possession of the child for the periods and in the manner in which the conservator described by Subsection (a) would be entitled if not ordered to military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty;
2. the child’s other conservator and the designated person under this section are subject to the requirements of Section 153.316, with the designated person considered for purposes of that section to be the possessory conservator;
3. the designated person under this section has the rights and duties of a nonparent possessory conservator under Section 153.376(a) during the period that the designated person has possession of the child; and
4. the designated person under this section is subject to any provision in a court order restricting or prohibiting access to the child by any specified individual. The court may limit or expand the rights of a nonparent designated person named in a temporary order under this section as appropriate and as is in the best interest of the child.
Texas House Bill 901 changing the spousal maintenance law in the Texas Family Code became effective for divorce cases filed on or after September 1, 2011. The bill revises the conditions that establish eligibility for spousal maintenance, commonly referred to as alimony, and changes the factors required to be considered by a court in determining the nature, amount, duration, and manner of periodic payments for a spouse who is eligible to receive maintenance.
Eligibility for spousal maintenance requires that the spouse seeking maintenance lack sufficient property to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs.
The new law provides potentially increased relief to spouses who have been out of the work force, are disabled, are victims of family violence or are the primary custodians of a disabled child.
Major changes to the Texas spousal support law are:
1. The maximum amount of spousal support that courts may award increased from $2,500 to $5,000.00 per month, although still limited to 20 percent of the payer’s average gross monthly income.
2. The duration of spousal support extended from a maximum of 3 years to a maximum of 5, 7 or 10 years, generally depending on the length of the marriage.
3. The law clarified that if a person has primary care for a disabled child, the custodial parent may be prevented because of the child’s disability from earning sufficient income to meet the custodial parent’s minimum reasonable needs.
4. The law also clarified that a person may not be held in contempt for failing to pay spousal support which is in an agreed order and extends beyond the period of time provided under the law.
In order to receive “maintenance,” (which is the statutory term for spousal support), the spouse seeking support must lack sufficient property to provide for the spouse’s “minimum reasonable needs”, AND one of the following:
(1) The recipient must be unable to earn sufficient income to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs because of an incapacitating mental or physical disability;
(2) The marriage lasted for 10 years or longer and the recipient lacks the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs;
(3) The recipient is the custodian of a child of the marriage of any age who requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a physical or mental disability that prevents the spouse from earning sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs; OR
(4) The person ordered to pay support was convicted of or received deferred jurisdiction for an act of family violence during the pendency of the suit or within two years of the date the suit is filed.
Under the previous law, under most circumstances, the court could only order maintenance for a maximum of three years, regardless of the length of the marriage. Under the new law, the court can order maintenance to continue for:
(1) 5 years if the parties were married less than 10 years and the maintenance is awarded due to family violence;
(2) 5 years if the parties were married more than 10 years, but less than 20 years.
(3) 7 years if the parties were married more than 20 years, but less than 30 years;
(4) 10 years if the parties were married for more than 30 years.
In cases where the maintenance is awarded due to the mental or physical disability of the spouse or a child of the marriage, the court may order that the maintenance continue as long as the disability continues.
However, in all circumstances, the law provides that the Court shall order maintenance for the shortest reasonable period that allows the recipient to earn sufficient income to meet his or her reasonable needs.
If you are contemplating dissolving your marriage and have questions concerning your financial future, seek competent legal counsel to help you determine whether you could be eligible for spousal support under the expanded provisions of the new law.
How Can The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) Affect Your Family Interstate Jurisdiction Problems?
Are you a parent having trouble collecting your child support for the children because your EX-spouse lives in another state? This has been a problem for many families for a long time. The United States Congress recognized this problem and mandated all states to adopt the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) to facilitate collection of child support across state lines.
It is no surprise that people move, but when trying to collect child support from an out-of-state parent you may need legal help to avoid unpleasant surprises.
When more than one state is involved in establishing, enforcing or modifying a child or spousal support order, the UIFSA determines the jurisdiction and power of the courts in the different states. The Act also establishes which state’s law will be applied, an important factor as support laws vary greatly among the states.
If there is no current child support order and the child and one parent live in Texas, the order or paternity determination may be established without another state’s involvement. If the parents have sufficient contact with Texas, the court may be able to enter an order even if one parent does not currently live in the state. UIFSA enables Texas and another state to cooperate to establish a child support order if another state’s assistance is needed because of residency issues.
UIFSA permits only one active support order for a case at a time. When there are multiple orders, UIFSA determines which support order will be followed, known as the “controlling order.” Orders may be registered in a different state for enforcement and modification purposes. The initiating state sends the order and documents to the responding state. The responding state registers the order and sends a notice to the other parent. The other parent has 20 days to file written objections regarding the order. If objections are made prior to the deadline, the court will hold a hearing and decide whether the order should be registered.
UIFSA also allows parents to enforce their support orders without the assistance of the state where the obligor (paying parent) lives. A withholding order, in many cases, can be sent directly to the out-of-state obligor’s employer requiring child support be deducted from the parent’s wages. The responding state also has the authority to pursue collection through enforcement hearings, license suspension, or incarceration of the delinquent, non-custodial parent.
If financial or other circumstances have changed, you may also request the court to modify a child support order. UIFSA sets the rules for modification. If either of the parents or the child still lives in the state that issued the controlling order, changes in the support amount must occur there. Otherwise the order may be registered and modified in the child’s home state. The child’s home state is generally where the child has resided for six (6) months with a parent.
If all parties have left the state that issued the controlling order, that state cannot change the support amount. To modify support, the order must be registered for modification in the state of residence of the parent not seeking modification.
UIFSA allows both parents to agree in writing that the state where one parent resides may modify the order and take control of the case. When a state modifies another state’s order, the new support amount is the amount to be collected by all any state in which the obligor resides.
Parents often turn to the Texas Attorney General for assistance in the collection and enforcement of child support, and that can be a good choice. However, parents – especially those who are experiencing continued delays and roadblocks – can hire a private attorney to advocate on their behalf and for the benefit of their children. An attorney can also provide guidance in enforcing and modifying terms of visitation.
Thirty seven percent of families in the United States are blended families. Sixty percent of second marriages end in divorce. A biological parent has his hands full, but as most step-parents will tell you, their job is even more complicated.
Following a divorce, it is not uncommon for a new step-parent to become the target of unprovoked spite or anger. In many cases, the previous-spouse harbors unfounded fears that their child will look to a new step-parent as a mother or father replacement figure. This can engender resentment to what may already be an uncomfortable situation between parties. Regretfully, these issues often escalate very quickly. Such resentments place the children squarely in the middle of a bitter fight between the people they love the most and are not healthy for anyone involved. The pain of conflicting loyalties to each parent and a child’s feeling of being “caught in the middle” of such disputes exacts an enormous emotional toll on a child. When a parent is in a rage, it is not uncommon for a child to withdraw. The child’s behavior towards the non-primary parent may abruptly change. This change in behavior may have more to do with keeping the primary parent happy than it does with how they really feel about the non-primary parent or step-parent. It is essential that you make it clear to your child that you love them and will always be there for them, regardless of the emotional or less than rosy current circumstances.
It is crucial to a child’s self-esteem and emotional growth that parents avoid putting children in the middle of such disputes. This can be incredibly difficult, however, when a selfish or manipulative parent does not think twice about wrongfully placing his or her child in the middle of conflict. Children are very perceptive and as they grow older they will ultimately realize when a parent has lied to them and used them for their own emotional or financial gain. Though they may temporarily identify with the aggressors, in time they will deeply resent the parent who has manipulated them.
Regardless of the circumstances, it is critical that biological parents avoid arguments or conflicts in the presence of the children. Such conduct is conducive to parental alienation goals of the misguided previous spouse. If the child sees that you maintain a calm and collected demeanor, it gives them reason to pause and feel safe.
If a previous spouse is making statements to the child regarding issues that should only be discussed between adults, tell the child that such discussions are inappropriate and you will take them up with the other parent at another time.
It is ok to tell your child “I am sorry,” if they are upset, even if you are not the parent upsetting them. This validates that they are hurting and relieves any false guilt they may have over things that are being said and done when you are not present. It is sometimes helpful to use everyday situations to explain conflict to your child. As an example, when dealing with conflict explain that “brothers and sisters fight, but they still love each other. Families have to work through conflict in order to stay together. I would not leave you if you made a mistake, I would not want you to leave me.” Such statements reinforces that reasonable conflict is ok and assures the child that you will remain a constant force in their life regardless of the situation.
If you feel that the conflict has escalated to a point of becoming emotionally abusive and/or destructive to the child, consult a Family Law / divorce attorney. It may be in the best interest of the child that he or she be removed from the primary parent and placed with the non-primary parent so that he or she is allowed to love all parental figures, parents and step-parents alike, unconditionally.