If you are married by IRS standards, you can only choose "married filing jointly" or "married filing separately" status. You cannot file as "single" or "head of household."
The IRS considers you married for the entire tax year when you have no separation maintenance decree by the final day of the year. December 31st
If considered unmarried, and the child lived with each parent the same amount of time during the year, the IRS allows the parent with the higher adjusted gross income (AGI) to claim the child.
Generally, only one person can claim the following:
- Dependency exemption for the child,
- Child tax credit, additional child tax credit, or credit for other dependents,
- Head of household filing status,
- Credit for the child and dependent care expenses, and
- Exclusion from income for dependent care benefits.
*If a special rule for a child of divorced or separated parents or parents who live apart applies, the noncustodial parent may be entitled to claim the child tax credit,
additional child tax credit, or the credit for other dependents for the child (if applicable), and another person may claim the other benefits for which the person is otherwise eligible.
Under the tiebreaker rules, the child is generally treated as a qualifying child of:
- The parents if they file a joint return and claim the child a qualifying child;
- The parent if only one of the persons is the child's parent and the parent claims the child as a qualifying child;
The parent with whom the child lived for the longer period of time during the tax year if two of the persons are the child's parent, they do not file a joint return together,
and both parents claim the child.
- The parent with the highest AGI if the child lived with each parent for the same amount of time during the tax year, they do not file a joint return together, and both parents claim the child;
- The person with the highest AGI if no parent can claim the child as a qualifying child; or
- The person with the highest AGI if a parent may claim the child as a qualifying child but no parent claims the child as a qualifying child, but only if that person has an AGI higher than any parent who may claim the child as a qualifying child.