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How Should We File Our Taxes During a Legal Separation?

December 28, 2016 Blog
How Should We File Our Taxes During a Legal Separation?
A formal judicial proceeding is utilized in order for a married couple to become legally separated. Most states in the United States have laws that permit legal separation.

In basic terms, a legal separation addresses the same issues that raised in divorce cases, including distribution of assets and debts as well as matters pertaining to children. The only real distinction between a legal separation order and a divorce decree is that a divorce degree include provision terminating the marriage. By definition, a marriage does not end in a legal separation proceeding.

If you have completed the judicial process for a legal separation, you may have some questions about your status. As an important aside, you are best served by retaining legal counsel to address issues associated with a legal separation. By taking such a course, you are in the best position to protect your important rights and interests.

Many people have questions related to financial matters at the conclusion of a legal separation proceeding. For example, with a legal separation in place pursuant to a court order, you may now wonder how to file your income taxes.

Filing Federal Income Taxes Following a Legal Separation

One of the reasons some people elect to seek a legal separation rather than a divorce is because of the more adverse tax consequences of not filing as a married couple. Thus, in most cases, you benefit from continuing to file taxes jointly as a husband and wife.

The fact that you have the ability to continue to file taxes jointly as husband and wife does not always mean that is what you should do. There are situations in which a spouse may have some sort of legal issue or issues. These legal matters may be an underlying reason why the spouses determined the need to legally separate.

In these types of situations, when comes other type of legal issue may be at play, your interests may be better served by filing separately from your spouse. Ascertaining what to do in this type of situation usually is aided through the advice or professionals, including an attorney or an accountant or financial adviser.

Tax Filing Included in the Decree of Legal Separation

Oftentimes, the manner in which taxes are to be dealt with is included in the final decree granting a legal separation. This provision can be included through the negotiation of the parties. It can also be included by order of the judge if the spouses are not able to reach an agreement as to how to handle taxes once a legal separation is in place.

The legal separation order is also likely to spell out how the parties are to provide documentation to one another for the purposes of tax preparation. The mechanics of how tax returns will be prepared during the term of legal separation are also likely spelled out in the court decree.

Tax Deduction and Tax Credit Allocations

If the parties have determined that it is somehow in their interests to file separate tax returns, a legal separation order is likely to set forth how this will be structured. The manner in which you and your spouse will take advantage of tax deductions and tax credits is also likely to be enumerated within the confines of a legal separation order as well. For example, the decree is likely to set out which party will take a deduction for any children born of the marriage. In some cases, that particular deduction will alternate from spouse to spouse from one year to the next.

Professional Assistance

As referenced previously, when dealing with tax issues and legal separation, you are best served in most instances obtaining professional assistance. Retaining the services of a skilled, experienced attorney is the first step in this process. An seasoned attorney will know what other professionals need to be brought into the mix to ensure your interests are protected, including when they come to taxes.

You can schedule an initial consultation with an attorney to discuss your case. The lawyer will provide an evaluation of your situation. You will also be able to present any questions or concerns that you have regarding your situation. As a general rule, there is no charge for an initial consultation with legal counsel.



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