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Wendy Reed
Wendy Reed, Enrolled Agent
Category: Tax
Satisfied Customers: 3346
Experience:  15+ years tax preparation and tax advice.
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I have three minor children. One born in March.

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I have three minor children. One born in March. Their mother left the end of July. Never married, but head of household.   Can I still claim them all as dependents on my taxes this year?

Hello there,

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.

Wendy Reed and other Tax Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Just for this past year June passed for the first two children. The third lived with me longer than at any other residence or with the other parent.

Joint custody, with mother to be custodial parent. For tax year 2007 It appears that I will be able to claim them. However after this year I will not.

Just because the children lived with me longer.

Now as for claiming the mother she lived with me for over half the year also. So is she a dependent also.

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:

  • You cannot claim any dependent if you , or your spouse if filing jointly could be claimed by another taxpayer
  • You cannot claim a married person who filed a joint return unless that joint return is filed only for a refund and no tax liability would exist for either spouse on separate returns
  • The dependent must be a US citizen, US resident, US national, or a resident of Canada or Mexico for some part of the year


All dependents are either Qualifying Children or Qualifying Relatives.


Qualifying Child:


  • The child must be your son, daughter, stepchild, eligible foster child, brother, sister, half or step brother or sister, or a descendant of one of them.
  • The child must be under age 19 at the end of the year or under age 24 and a full time student for any part of 5 months of the year, OR, any age and totally and permanently disabled
  • The child must have lived with you for more than ½ the year (exceptions apply)
  • The child must not have provided more than half of his or her own support for the year
  • If the child is a qualifying child of more than 1 person, you must be the person entitled to claim the child (tie-breaker rules)


Qualifying Relative:


  • The person cannot be your qualifying child or the qualifying child of anyone else-Even if the person for whom the child is a qualifying child does not claim that child as a dependent
  • The person must be related to you as a parent, child, sibling or a descendent or ancestor of one of these. Steps, halves, and in-laws count. The end of a marriage does not end this relationship for tax purposes. If the person is not related to you in this manner (such as a cousin or unrelated person), that person has to live with you for the entire year.
  • The person's gross income must be less than the exemption amount ($3400 in 2007, $3500 in 2008)
  • You must provide more than half of the person's total support for the year unless a multiple support agreement is in place
Customer: replied 9 years ago.
ok, thanks... here's the breakdown

Child 1 - Jan 1 - July 22nd

Child 2 - Jan 1 - July 22nd

Child 3 - March 22 - July 22nd

All Children then lived with Grandparents for 3.5 months and mother for 1.5 months.

So Technically, Child 1 and 2 .. no question here, I can claim them with no issues.

Child 3 however, being born in March was supported by me until July. Then supported by Grandparents, due to Mother Unemployed. Then Mother moved on own for last 1.5 months of year. So, it would appear that Child 3 would be a Dependent of mine due to the moving from Grandparents. Neither Grandparents or Mother had child longer than the 4 mo I had them in my house.

As for next year, Mother Claims all 3.

I'm sorry for this, but I am just trying to make sense of all this jargon and lingo.

Where did the mother live while children with Grandparents from July 22- ?Nov.?

Hi again,

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.

Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Yeah, she moved out and was with on her own for maybe a week then moved in with her Mother in her mother's house until end of november sometime.

Fortunately I do have the changes of address for all of this but not here in front of me.

Mother became a dependent of her mother, due that she chose to no longer be employed and hasn't worked since.

But there was a physical address change in November.
Customer: replied 9 years ago.
I'll be on and off all evening

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.

Customer: replied 9 years ago.
One last thing, so even if a parent was not working, but lived with the children the whole year. They are considered a Custodial Parent even if the other parent paid 95% of all living expenses for both the children and the other parent. Cause how I understand it now is this. I am only allowed to claim myself because the other parent was residing with the children for the whole year and it doesn't really matter who pays the bills. So basically a 5hr/week job equates to a large refund as long as your the custodial parent. And the parent who works 80+hours and pays most of the bills gets to claim nothing. Ok. I get it. Well that sucks.

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.