Unless you’re filing a joint return with your spouse, only the custodial parent can normally claim the qualifying child as their dependent.
The custodial parent is the parent who lived with the child for the greater number of nights during the tax year. If the child was with each parent for an equal number of nights, the custodial parent is the parent with the higher adjusted gross income (AGI).
A noncustodial parent without dependents can’t claim the following:
- Head of household filing status
- Child and Dependent Care Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Dependent care benefits from the employer
The following items may also impact your tax refund if you don’t have a dependent:
- Earned Income Credit
- Premium Tax Credit
If the custodial parent of a qualifying child agrees to complete Form 8332 - Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, the noncustodial parent can claim the child as a dependent for the year(s) the release is in effect and may then be eligible for the credits and other items listed above. In that event, the custodial parent may still claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit for the care expenses paid for that child.
The noncustodial parent must mail Form 8453 to the IRS within three days of the date that they receive acknowledgement that their federal tax return was accepted with the completed Form 8332 from the custodial parent attached.