One surprising fact you may learn from your divorce mediator is that you can decide who claims your children as dependents on a tax return. It is not necessarily automatically the custodial parent. This is a financial aspect of your divorce that many people overlook.  If you try to divorce on your own, you might miss some key financial components of the divorce that a professional divorce mediator knows to address.  You could spend a little money now to get divorced with a professional and save thousands in the future.  Indeed, the phrase “penny wise but pound foolish” comes to mind.

Many people do not know that you have options for claiming dependents.  And it could change over time if you choose. It might make more sense for the person who could financially benefit the most to claim the children as dependents each year.  Or perhaps you agree to alternate, Dad one year and Mom the next.  Or Mom takes kids 1 and 2 and Dad takes kid 3.   You can fill out the forms each year with the IRS and it is absolutely legal, no tricky games being played that would trigger an audit. 

How you plan to claim your dependents is something that should be included in your divorce agreement.  If ever there is a dispute in the future, you need the document to support your position.  In a March 27, 2013, Ask The Biz Brain column in the Star Ledger, the father claimed both children this year even though the divorce decree states that starting this year the mother can claim the youngest son.  The mom now has more paperwork to fill out to get this resolved, but it can get straightened out, because it is in her divorce decree.  It is vital that it is stated in the divorce decree how each dependent is being claimed each year.  Finding a good divorce mediator who can help you ask and answer the important questions about your finances is a good first step toward planning for your future.

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For more information about Divorce Mediation contact Randi M. Albert, JD, or Michelle Weinberg, LMFT, at Westfield Mediation, LLC, at 908.913.0373.  View our website at or email us at