My Ex Claimed My Kid: Now What Do I Do?

What to do if an ex spouse claims your chlid for taxes

It’s a hassle if someone else claims your child on their tax return, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up.


This happens to people all the time.  You go to electronically file your tax return and it gets rejected because someone else has already claimed your child.  What do you do?  I say fight back, and here’s how.


The first step to fighting back is to make sure that you’re in the right.  Ask yourself these questions:


1.  Are you the biological parent of the child?  Hint:  if your answer is “I’ve raised her like my own.”  You’re going to have trouble winning.  If you’re a grandparent, step parent, aunt or uncle; and the person who claimed the child is the actual parent, you don’t stand much of a chance.  (That said, some folks will have a credible case, but I’d suggest professional help here because it is tricky.)  To go this route you should be the real parent.


2.  Did the child live with you all year?  If not all year, for at least over half of the year?  If you had custody all year you have a much better shot of winning.  You absolutely must have had custody for over half of the year to even think of trying this.  If you’re on the border line, where your ex had the child for half the year and you had half, this might not be worth it.


3.  Is this good for your child?  Generally you’d think that having more money in the household would be good for your child, but if fighting with your ex could cause harm to your child, you might want to stop and think about it a bit.


Step two.  Once you’ve determined that you are in the right and that you are entitled to claim your child, then what you need to do is print out, sign and mail that rejected return to the IRS —keeping your child as your dependent on the tax return.  When you do this, the IRS has to take it in.  They have to look at it and it’s going to throw whoever claimed your child into an audit.  If an Earned Income Tax Credit is involved then those audit papers generally run 11 to 22 pages long.  (11 pages for a straight EIC audit, 22 for an EIC and head of household audit, they’re the same questions it’s just that 22 pages is more intimidating.)


Here’s the scary part, you’re going to get the same paperwork.  It is a little intimidating, but you’re expecting it.  Because you’re the custodial parent, that is your child lives with you, you can answer those questions with no problem.  People who shouldn’t be claiming your kids can’t answer the questions and that’s why you’ll win.  If your kids are in school, you’ll need a document from the school saying they attend and where they live.  If they’re too young for school, you can get a statement from the doctor’s office that you’re their parent and you pay their medical bills.  You’ll have the resources to prove that you’re the parent.


If you’re reading this and thinking, “I can’t prove I have custody of my kids,” then maybe you shouldn’t be filing for them.  You will have to provide some proof:  school records, doctor’s files, church documents, day care receipts, health insurance records, something professional.   Your Mom or a friend can’t vouch for you.


Once you’ve received the audit papers, completed them and sent them back, then it’s a waiting game.  Your ex (or whoever claimed your child) will have to complete the same paperwork.  The IRS will examine the papers and determine who had the proper right to claim your child.  But since it’s you, you will win.


The big downside to this is that it will take months to settle.  Months.  On the upside, once your ex has lost an audit case for claiming your child, it will be very difficult to ever try it again.  You’re not just solving a problem for one year, you’re preventing future problems as well.


What if you need the money now?  That’s the most common question.  Sorry, but that’s impossible.  What you’ve lost, you can’t get back without a fight.  If you have more than one child, and only one was claimed incorrectly, you could file now and at least get part of your refund, then file an amended return later.  I don’t recommend doing that, but I also understand sometimes you need the cash now.


If you try doing this as an amended return there are two consequences:  first, it will slow everything down even more.  You can’t file an amended return until your first return is completely processed.  An amended return will take about 16 weeks to run through the system before the whole audit process begins so you’re basically adding 4 to 5 months to the timeline for solving this issue.  Second, filing a return and amending to add a child reduces your credibility with the IRS.  Your documentation had better be rock solid because you will have no wiggle room for doubt if you submit an amended return to claim your child.


One more thing to consider before you go through with this.  Call your ex and talk it out.  I’m not crazy, hear me out.  You’ve read this far, you know that fighting is a big hassle.  Before you go into warrior mode, maybe you can negotiate a peace treaty.  What do you stand to gain from this?  What does your ex stand to gain?  It’s important that you file your returns legally, but with divorced or never married couples, you can split an exemption:  the custodial parent claims head of household and EIC, the non-custodial parent claims the child tax credit and the exemption.  It could be a good thing for both of you and for your child.  (Remember, what’s best for the child?)  Instead of going to war, you have your ex amend his/her return and you file your return right after the amendment is accepted.  It still is slow, but much faster than going through an audit.  And it’s a peaceful solution.  (Please, don’t even think of trying this if your ex is dangerous.  Safety first.)


Finding out that someone else has claimed your child for taxes can be shocking and financially devastating.  The assumption is usually that it’s the ex, but that’s not always the case.   When you file to claim your child, you will never be told who the other person is.  (Of course, if it’s your ex you’ll probably get an unfriendly phone call so you’ll know.)  It’s scary how often it’s not the ex, though.  Be sure to protect your child’s social security number.  Don’t keep the card in your purse.  Don’t share the social security number with anyone.  Your child needs your protection.  It’s hard enough being a kid, being a kid with a stolen identity is worse.


Note:  Here are some links that might help:

EIC questions of any kind:–Use-the-EITC-Assistant-to-Find-Out-if-You-Should-Claim-it.

How to find free tax preparers:

How to find your local IRS office:


1,272 thoughts on “My Ex Claimed My Kid: Now What Do I Do?

  1. Hi Wes,
    Yes, to fix it you would amend your tax return. Remember, only claim what you are entitled to. If your kids don’t live with you, you may only claim the exemption and child tax credit, you may not claim EIC or the child care credit. If you over claim, you’ll mess up winning on the amendment.

  2. Hi Cheri,
    You’re right, the mother may not claim the child for EIC. You, as the legal court appointed guardian have the only right to claim the child on your tax return. I would paper file. You will be sent a letter requesting proof, once it comes, send your documentation in. It will take some time, but you are in the right.

  3. My ex claimed my 2 kids, when in our agreement from the courts states I can claim them every other year. I am married now but and I tried to file taxes with my kids and was rejected. Then My wife went and filed our taxes at H and R block filed without my my kids on it and the return has been accepted , how would i fix It to claim my kids, would I amend them

  4. I am a legal guardian of a minor. Her absent mother spends zero time with her. She resides with me in a completely different state. Can the absent mom legally claim her on her taxes to get the EIC? I would think not and I consider it tax fraud. We just found out she has claimed her not only last year but this year as well. Is it legal to do so? I have a paper trail with two Superior Courts, the Letters proving I am her Legal Guardian, and DCSS report that states she pays child support as she is the absent parent. Any suggestions?

  5. Hi Joseph,
    First you want to know exactly why your return was rejected. Although I’m guessing that you do know it’s because of the kids. It sounds to me like you and your wife have the legitimate claim. You know today is the first day of filing. Her ex must have just gotten his return in before you. Wow.

  6. Hi Bee,
    If you should not have claimed your children, there could be a dispute. If you are the true custodial parent – it doesn’t matter what the support decree says, did the children live with you? I’m guessing that they did.

    But what does responsible parent mean? I mean as far as your decree goes. Does it mean he gets to claim them? Then it should spell it out. X gets to claim the exemption. But, that only means the exemption and the child tax credit, not head of household filing status or EIC. Here’s more information: Splitting an Exemption

  7. Hey Mrs. Roberg,

    I just got an email that the IRS have rejected my tax return. My wife and I filed jointly and we claimed my step kids (4 of them) on our tax return. My wife have full custody of the 4 kids and she’s fighting their Dad for child support and he doesn’t even want to pay that saying the kids are not his. I provide in full for them and they live with their Mom and I. Do you think that I have chance in this if I provide the IRS with Doctors papers, school registration papers, health insurance documents.. or whatever else they could ask for?

  8. We have a child support agreement on our signatures it says I’m the custodial parent and he’s the responsible parent. I claimed all the kids before him so he’s mad and he said he’s going to dispute it. Is that possible?

  9. Hi Nicole,
    I hear you! Sadly, because the IRS “doesn’t want to get involved in family disputes” they won’t do anything! Now, if the girlfriend filed with your kids numbers – the IRS might actually get involved because that’s identity theft. You might get a PIN then. But so far, they haven’t been issuing PINs when it’s another parent stealing the kids socials. Sorry.
    Your best bet (and I hate giving this as advice) is to file before he does. Doesn’t always work, but filing early for you is your best chance.

  10. Hello! My twins father has been filing for them for the last 3 years and I always have to end up mailing my taxes in. The irs has done nothing to stop it. I have full custody of my children and they are with me 24/7 365. He even had his girlfriend file so child support wouldn’t take his taxes. And that is how he ended up with their ssn because of child support for insurance. I don’t know what to do but I know I’m tired of mailing my taxes in and the IRS not doing anything.

  11. Hi Deborah,
    I’m guessing you mean he said that he was supposed to claim the child, not hurt the child. (Girl, if he’s talking about hurting your child you move out today! – But I’m thinking that was just a typo.)
    Anyway, is your boyfriend the child’s father? If he is not – he got nothin’. I just want to be clear about that.
    Now, if he is the child’s father, and you have both lived with the child for the whole year together, and IF – notice that I’m saying “if” here, IF you two were to fight over who claimed your child, then the parent with the higher income wins.

    BUT– and this is really important, BUT–if you are not fighting over who claims the child, it doesn’t matter who claims the child. In which case, you two might want to work together to see where it makes the most sense. If you make less, it might make more sense for you to claim the child. It might not. You can run both of your returns for free at this link:

    Hopefully that helps. Good luck.

  12. My boyfriend was saying that by law he makes more money that he was supposed to hurt the child by law I wonder is that true because we are having some serious issues about that it’s not y’all too and we live in the same household and we’re not married what is the answer is a true or not please answer me and have a wonderful day

  13. So the father of my child has been claiming my daughter for the last four years with out my permission and my daughter lives with me I take care of her he barley see her and does not do anything for her or gives me money when he gets taxes so this year I have decided enough is enough and I will take matters in my hand but I want to know can I claim back all them years of taxes he has done I have proof my child has lived wit me I have full custody and everything ?????

  14. Hi Ashley,
    So you’re asking me for permission to violate a court order? I have no authority to do that. Technically, you should issue your ex the 8332 so that he can claim the exemption and the child tax credit. He is not entitled to claim EIC for the child care credit.

    Now, he hasn’t paid his child support. When was your divorce decree signed? You should probably read this: Court Ordered Exemptions and the IRS

    If the decree was from 2009 or earlier, and there are no conditions, your ex can just mail copies of the relevant pages to the IRS and yes, you can get into trouble.

    If it’s 2010 or later, he can’t do that. And you can hold his 8332 form ransom until his child support is paid. That is your bargaining chip.

    Now, technically, since the children live with you, and if your divorce was after 2009, you could just file a tax return and claim the children for everything. The IRS would not care. But – and this is the important part – now I’m not an attorney, and I can’t give legal advice, but my common sense self thinks that if you claimed those kids when you’re not supposed to – I think that would be considered contempt of court, wouldn’t it So although you may not have an IRS issue, you may have a court issue. You should ask an attorney, because I can’t give legal advice. But, just sayin’. You used the term “judgement” and “signed by a judge” so I’m thinking there are potential legal issues there.

  15. My ex and I have a judgment signed by a judge to claim our children every other year. The children live with me all year. He doesn’t supply medical support, my new husband does. If I beat him to the punch of claiming them can I get I trouble with the IRS? HE doesn’t even pay his child support does that matter?

  16. Hi Nicholas,
    Okay – you’ve got a weird thing here. You shouldn’t both sing an 8332. Only your ex should sign an 8332. She signs it so that you may claim the dependency exemption. Then she only gets the head of household and the EIC. My guess is that either she also claimed the exemption, or you accidentally claimed HH. Here’s how it should be done: How to Do the Split Exemption the Legal Way

    It’s a little confusing, you might want to get some professional help. But I’m guessing that one of you did an overclaim and that’s why you’ve got a reject.

  17. I was divorced in 2013 and had joint custody of my 2 kids, my ex then moved from Ohio to Texas a year later and left the kids with me, to be with her now-husband. At the time, the court said that we could each claim a child on taxes. I have since taken her back to court and received full custody and she has the summer and standard holidays. Between 2013 and 2016 the court never updated the tax exemption section of our paperwork so she was still claiming one of them but the children saw their mom less than 90 days each year (and didn’t even talk to her for weeks and up to 4 months at a time while with me). 2016 I had enough of the ghosting, so I filed an amendment on my taxes to claim both kids. I took her back to court this past February and was awarded (minimal) child support, and had the paperwork updated so I can claim them both on taxes officially. Fast forward to now, the IRS finally caught up and sent her a letter. Everything I can find on the subject says she shouldn’t have been able to claim them regardless what the court says, because the IRS is federal and you shouldn’t lie about where the kids live. I have paid for way more than half my share. She also was court ordered to get a job to hopefully, up the child support to something better than less than $100 a month, per child. I’m basically doing it all on my own. Am I in the wrong?

  18. It is in my consent judgement that the father she’ll be entitled to claim the following minor children as dependents for all state and federal income tax purposes the mother shall be permitted to claim head of household or earned income credit for said children if permitted under state and federal income tax under the circumstances that the other party is claiming the dependency exemption. We both signed IRS Form 8332 which in 2013 I file my taxes and it was rejected by the IRS because she filed also. What can I do about this?

  19. Hi Alicia,
    I was just talking about that. Here’s a link to my post about how that works: Splitting an Exemption

    Your daughter lives with you. If your Ex claims the exemption, he still cannot claim EIC because your daughter does not live with him. The back up to my argument can be found in the IRS Publication 17 on pages 28 and 32 (for 2017.) Here’s a link to that also: Pub. 17

  20. I made a foolish agreement in court that my ex and I would alternate claiming our daughter on our taxes. He’s been beating me to the punch repeatedly claiming her on years that are not his. In addition I recently figured out he’s been getting the EIC every year. The child lives with me 365 days. In 2016 he did not visit wit her, paid $100 a week in support, which went to afters choose costs. I pay her health insurance, food, clothes, transportation, keep her housed and extracuricular activities.
    Yet, I was told by IRS that if HE claims the exemption, HE gets the EIC. He said we couldn’t split it. I see in one of your responses you said otherwise. I am confused. Please explain.

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