You may claim this girl as a dependent on your tax
return as long as all of the following rules
can be met:
1. She must live with you the entire year.
2. She cannot have income of her own of more than $3,650 in 2009. That amount will be slightly higher in 2010, but the amounts have not yet been announced.
3. You must provide for more than half of her total support.
4. She cannot be the qualifying child of another taxpayer.
If this girl will be coming to live with you mid-year, then for the first year she would not qualify to be your dependent, as rule # XXXXX would not be met. However, any year that she lives with you for the entire year, then as long as the other rules can be met you can claim her as a dependent on your return. You do not need legal guardianship to claim the deduction
as long as you otherwise qualify.
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Thank you nym and let me know if you have more questions. I am happy to help you with whatever I can.