All About the Tax Return and Getting Divorced or Separated

Sep 23, 2022 By Triston Martin


Even if you or your spouse filed for divorce during the tax year in question, under IRS rules, you are still considered married until the divorce is final. If your divorce was finalized on December 31 of that year, you cannot file a marital return for that year since you would be considered to have been legally single during the entire year. In the eyes of the IRS, you're still married even though you've been divorced or lawfully separated in the eyes of the law. If you are legally separated as of December 31, as opposed to simply living apart, your marriage has officially ended. It clarifies this issue and many other tax regulations that affect divorced or legally separated taxpayers.

Legal Fees

Unfortunately, a divorce's legal and court fees are not deductible. Tax preparation and alimony costs may be deductible for prior tax years. Expert advice on how your income, property, and estate taxes will be affected by your separation or impending divorce can be among these. To claim these exemptions, you must have detailed invoices from your lawyer that break down every charge. These exemptions are no longer allowed as of the 2018 tax year.

Filing Status

The correct tax, standard deduction, and whether or not you're required to file all depend on your filing status. It could be used to see if you qualify for other tax breaks. One factor that determines your filing status is your marital status as of the last day of the tax year.

Marital Status

One's filing status is "single" if they have never been married, "head of household" if they meet certain requirements, or "qualifying widow" if they have lost (er). If you're married, you can choose between two different filing options: married filing jointly or married filing separately.

Married Persons

As opposed to a final decree, an interlocutory decree only serves as a temporary measure. While married couples are treated differently for federal tax purposes, individuals who have entered into a registered domestic partnership, civil union, or similar relationship that isn't called a marriage under state (or foreign) law are considered single.


There are situations in which a person who is not married but is living apart from their spouse can claim the status of head of household.

Divorced at Year End

Divorced people who file their taxes by December 31 are considered single filers if they meet certain criteria. If you meet all three of the following requirements, you are HOH. If you're filing your taxes as a single person at the end of the year, the IRS will treat you as such (IRS). Although you may be legally married, you can claim to be "considered unmarried" if the following conditions are met:

  1. Your spouse did not live with you during the last six months of the year.
  2. You filed separate returns.
  3. You did not live together during the year.

You have an eligible relative or roommate who has been a permanent resident of your home for at least six months out of the year. More than half of the annual home maintenance cost must have been covered by your payments.

Maintenance Payments

Maintenance payments are money one ex-spouse sends to the other ex-spouse and their children after a divorce. The need to pay maintenance may arise from a legally binding contract or a more informal, mutually agreeable arrangement.

Voluntary Maintenance Payments

For tax purposes, neither the spouse who is paying maintenance nor the spouse who is receiving support is required to report receipt of voluntary maintenance payments. On their income, both partners are treated as singles for tax purposes. You can claim the married person's credit instead of the single person's credit if the maintenance you pay is your spouse's primary source of income, but you'll still be subject to the single person's tax bracket.


Often, a person's tax situation will shift significantly after a divorce. If you get divorced or legally separated before December 31, you may have different options for paying your taxes than if you got divorced after that date. In the event of a divorce, the custodial parent is awarded several tax benefits for their children. Timing the sale of a home, one of the major assets most couples own, can help you take advantage of a larger exemption. The receiver need not count alimony payments as income because the payer can no longer claim a tax deduction for them.

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