Can an ex-mother-in-law claim my kids on her taxes if she was awarded custody of them?

by Susan E. S. Howe, CPA | Jan 17, 2019

My ex-mother-in-law was awarded custody of my three kids in October 2018. They've lived with her since Aug. 16, 2018. No mention of taxes was in the custody order or brought up in court. Can she claim them on her 2018 taxes?

The tax benefits related to children have changed for 2018. Now, a credit is available instead of a personal exemption. However, the rules regarding how dependent children qualify for the benefits have not changed. To claim a child credit, one of the rules is that the child (or grandchild in this case) must have lived with the person claiming them for more than half the year, unless a divorce agreement indicates which spouse can claim the credit. In this case, since the kids have only lived with your ex-mother-in-law for 4 1/2 months, she would not be able to claim the child tax credit for them for 2018 since the custody agreement was silent on the tax benefits.

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Answered by: Susan E. S. Howe, CPA, is principal of Howe Advisory in Strafford, Pa.

The responses are based on the limited information provided by the questioner and apply the laws and regulations at the time of posting. Other options could arise as rules and regulations may change over time, including but not limited to the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. They are intended to provide general information, not specific accounting or tax advice; they are not intended or written to be used and cannot be used for the purpose of avoiding or evading taxes or penalties under the IRS code or regulations. Views expressed do not imply an opinion of the PICPA, its officers, directors, employees, or members.
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