I am sorry to hear of your troubles.
Technically, if you paid more than 1/2 the cost of keeping up your household for your children, you may file head of household. You may also claim your children as dependents, assuming that they meet the dependency requirements. If they lived with you more than 1/2 the year and did not pay more than 1/2 the cost of supporting themselves, they will be considered qualifying children dependents.
If your questions concerns whether you or their mother is entitled to claim them, it would appear that you are, because the custodial parent is the parent who may claim the children, unless he or she signs a waiver for the non-custodial parent to claim them. The custodial parent is the parent with whom the children reside for a longer period of time during the tax year.
If you need additional info, please let me know.
I am a little confused about what you mean about "June passed for the first two children".
I will give you all of the dependency rules in detail, so that you can examine them and let me know if you have more questions.
As far as the children are concerned, for determining custodial parent, it would be the parent with whom the children lived with the greater part of the tax year. If they lived with you for 12 months, and her for only 7 months, then you would be considered the custodial parent.
As for the mother, if she left in July, then she does not qualify as your dependent. An unrelated person would have to live with you for the entire year.
I just read your additional info, it was not present when I posted my first response. I am very confused as to who the children lived with and when...I would need to understand in more detail before I could determine who could claim whom.
Here are the dependency rules:
Rules for all dependents include:
All dependents are either Qualifying Children or Qualifying Relatives.
Where did the mother live while children with Grandparents from July 22- ?Nov.?
I have to go offline for a bit, I will be back on in approx. 1 hr and will hopefully be able to give more details.
Okay, I think I understand the situation now. Sorry to ask so many questions but sometimes it is necessary.
There are several issues here. The way I first understood, I thought that you had custody of the children all year. However, it appears that the children only lived with you until July, but lived with their mother all year. As such, the children are qualifying children of both you and their mother, but she meets the definition of custodial parent.
The grandmother has no legal basis to claim the children, because the children lived with her for less than 1 year, and as such they are not her "qualifying children". You cannot claim a dependent that is a qualifying child of another taxpayer.
There are certain rules for children of divorced or separated parents, but these rules do not apply because they require the parents to live apart during the last 6 months of the year.
So, The children are "qualifying children" of both you and their mother. As such, if both of you claim the same children, the tie-breaker rules will kick in and she will be awarded the right to claim them because they resided with her for the longer part of the year. If you and the grandmother both claim the children, you have the higher right to the claim because they are your qualifying children.
If the mother did work for part of the year, she may claim the children and receive earned income credit--which can provide her with a large refund. However, depending upon what she earned, it may not benefit her to claim all three children. Therefore, you should work out with her which children you will each be claiming.
I know it is frustrating.
You don't necessarily have the facts straight.
This year, you do qualify as head of household, and your children are qualifying children for you. However, they are also qualifying children of their mother, and if both of you claim the same children---tiebreaker rules will allow her claim.
The Custodial parent has nothing to do with who worked or who made more money, it has to do with the residence of the children.
Why don't you discuss this with her. She could claim two of the children and get a very large refund (depending on her income). And you could claim the third child as a dependent and for head of household filing status. Or, if she made so little it might not even benefit her to claim the kids as depdnents at all, but she could still use them as qualifying persons for earned income credit, and you could claim them as dependents. This would probably benefit both of you the greatest. There will only be a problem if two people claim the same child as dependent.