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If the legal agreement still is in effect, you must refer to the document.
If the legal document is no longer in effect, the parent who has custody the most NIGHTS during the year has the first right to the dependent claim.
That doesn't really answer my question...the wife and new husband have custody 11 months out of the year. RI law seems to indicate that declare as dependent you must have them either for 6 months and/or pay half the support. The separation agreement was written prior to the divorce being granted and there was nothing in the divorce decree about dependents. Wife at the time was not represented by counsel.
Keep in mind that dependents for tax purposes have very specific rules.
State laws have no bearing on federal dependent rules
The IRS looks at the custody agreement first. If the custody agreement is unclear, federal laws dictate the answer.
In this case, if the custody agreement is not binding on the parties, the IRS rule states that the parent that has the child the most nights gets the first right to claim the child as the dependent.
It is that simple. If there is a tie, there are tie-breaker rules.
I'm not sure why that is not understood. It's pretty straight-forward.