How to Do the Split Exemption When Preparing Your Own Return

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I have another blog post about split exemptions.  If you’d like more information about that, or if you’d like to know if you should even be doing a split exemption, then you should read that first.  Here’s a link to that page:


This page is about the nuts and bolts of how to actually prepare a return with a split exemption.  I’ve gotten a lot of calls and emails asking me how it‘s done.  I’m using the software package that’s on this website for the example.  If you’re using Turbo Tax and have questions, call the 800 number on the box.  They have trained experts to talk you through it.  (Sorry, Turbo Tax doesn’t pay me so I can’t tell you how to use their product.)  If you need Turbo Tax help but don‘t have the box, go to this site and send them an email, they’ll contact you:


This is how it works in

If you are the custodial parent, claiming the head of household status and the EIC, this is what you do:


1.  First thing:  Once you log into the software, the very first question you get is what is your filing status.  You’re going to say Head of Household.


Then you’ll complete the rest of the form with your name and address information.


The next section is the dependents screen.  First it asks if someone can claim you as a dependent.  If you’re splitting an exemption, then the answer to this had better be “No.”


Do you have any dependents to claim:  Yes


Did you pay for the care of a child, etc:  Yes if you did, no if you didn’t.  When splitting an exemption, the custodial parent is the one who gets to claim the child care credit if your child is in daycare.


Go to the next page.


Now you’re on the forms review page.  Under dependents it says “add a form.”  Click on that.


On the dependent screen, you are going to fill out all the information about your child; the name, social security number, etc.  But in the check boxes below you are going to check the box that says:  “Child is not your dependent but does qualify you to file as Head of Household”.


The next section is for Child and Dependent Care Expenses—If you have those complete that section.


The next section is about EIC.  Answer those questions.  Generally the answers should be NO, NO, NO.  Question 13a—where it asks is someone else qualifies to claim this child?  Your ex cannot claim EIC—your ex is claiming the dependency exemption, so you should answer NO.


When you finish the screen, it will send you back to the dependents screen again.  If you have another child, you’ll add another form.  If you’re done, click next.


Then you’ll complete the rest of the program by inputting your wages and other income.


After you’ve input your income information, you’ll be inputting your deductions.


Then you’ll have the state information for your state return.


You’re almost done.  There are more questions you’ll need to answer before you finish.


When you get to the part where you “Review Your Return” you want to click on the “Preview Your Return” section.  This is where you check to make sure it’s right.  This is what to look for:

1.  Your filing status will be Head of Household, box 4

2.  In the line below it, it will have your child’s name and social security number

3.  In the exemptions section, it will show that you have claimed yourself; it will not show your        child’s name in that box at all

4.  On page 2 of your 1040 form there will be nothing on line 33, or line 39 (the child tax credits).

5.  On page 2, if you do qualify for EIC, then there will be something on line 38a.


If that’s how your return comes out, then you’ve done the split exemption correctly.


Note:  if you have other children that will not have split exemptions, then you will have names in the dependents screen and probably numbers in the child tax credits line.  You might want to do the split child first and check the return, then go back and add the other children.


If you are the parent claiming the exemption and the child tax credit, but not the head of household status and EIC—then here are your instructions.


1.  Starting from the beginning, you will first choose your filing status.  The split child cannot make your Head of Household so unless you have another child that lives with you; this is not your status.  You’ve going to be married or single.

2.  When you get into the dependents – dependents information, you will answer the questions,

Can someone else can claim you as a dependent?  No.

Do you have any dependents to claim:  Yes

Did you pay for the care of a child, etc:  No—even if you paid for the child care expenses, since you are not the custodial parent, you are not entitled to this tax credit?

3.  In the dependent screen, you will fill out all the information about your child, but the box you are going to check is “Child did NOT live with you due to divorce or separation.”  In the section that says “months lived with you” you will answer “zero.”  Even if your child did live with you for a few months, check zero here to make the program work.

4.  You will check NO under the child care expenses.

5.  In the EIC section you will check the box that says, “Dependent is not eligible for EIC.”

6.  Next you’ll complete the rest of the tax return like you would any other.

7.  When you get to the finish, you’ll want to check your return to make sure your child is listed correctly.

When you review your return, your filing status will be single (or married if you’ve remarried) but it will not be head of household.

You child’s name will be listed in the exemptions section.

You will have a number on one or both of the child tax credit lines.

You will not have anything listed on the EIC line.

If both parents file the split exemption correctly, you should have no problem with the IRS over claiming your child.

13 thoughts on “How to Do the Split Exemption When Preparing Your Own Return

  1. Hi Karie,
    H&R Block is right! and Your child’s father cannot claim EIC, only you can. Now if you file and your return gets rejected–you know he tried to pull a fast one. Don’t let that stop you. Fight back and mail in your return.

  2. if my childs father can claim our son as a dependent this year per form 8332 can i still claim him for Earned Income Credit he says I cannot H&R Block says I can I need an accurate legal answer

  3. Hi Rachel,
    According the the court document, you get to claim the dependency exemption.
    In the future, you and your husband will be alternating. Now even though he will sometimes claim the dependency exemption, you–as the custodial parent, will be able to claim the EIC and the head of household designation.
    While you were living with your father, your father probably really should have claimed your child.

  4. Hi Anna,
    I’m not sure how you filed. As I understand it, you are the non-custodial parent and your decree allows you to claim the exemption and the child tax credit. If that’s all you claimed, you should be okay. You will have to mail your tax return in and attach copies of your decree showing that you are allowed the exemption.
    Because your decree goes back to 2008, you can just send in those pages and you don’t have to have a signed 8332 form.

  5. Hi Jan, My ex and I have shared parenting and I am the non custodial parent of our child. The decree states than I can claim our child for the exemption for the years 2008 and beyond. The decree has no stipulations that states for income or child support that I can’t claim the child but it does not it states I can claim him 2008 and beyond and my ex can claim the EIC but we could chose to change if the proper from 8832 is signed. It was not signed by me and my ex didn’t not seek one form me. My tax was rejected. So what can I do my ex says his lawyer said he could claim the child and I don’t know the why. I was never informed about any of it?

  6. Hi Cathy,
    if you really have the children with you 58% of the time, then you have the right to claim EIC on all three kids even if your ex gets to claim the exemption. I wouldn’t claim an exemtoin you’re not entitled to, but I would at least claim what’s mine.
    I’m guessing your ex claimed more than he was supposed to.

  7. Hi Jan
    we did in 2009 have joint custody and of 2010 I took him back to court for child support and it was changed to 58/42 . I got the 58 and he got 42 and paying child support too. But my question was i didn’t sign any 8333 form for last year an he did claim all 3 last yr and i was suppose to claim two this yr and he claims 2 already ??? What should I do ??

  8. I have been divorced since 2011. In the divorce orders it states ” IT IS ORDERED AND DECREED that (fathers name) shall have the exclusive right to take the child tax deductions/credit for the child (childs name) for tax purposes in all years begining with the tax year ending (year we first seperated)”
    My question is can I still put my son on my taxes since he lives with me and I’m the custodial parent, for the purpose of child care and EIC credit?

  9. I signed the form 8332 and released the right for exemption of my child to my ex-husband, however I am the custodial parent as I have the child for 7 months of the year. He gets him two days a week and every other weekend. Anyway, my ex pays all daycare, around, $3200 a year. He is claiming the child this year and plans on claiming his daycare expenses. Will this be allowed? I have read mixed information on this issue. I am not claiming any child care as I don’t pay any.

  10. Hi Lara,
    You do have the right to claim your stepson. You will file with him on your return and it will be delayed–but when push comes to shove, you’ll win. Prepare for battle–get your ducks in a row. But the IRS will side with you.

  11. I have married a man with two children when we first married in 2008 both of his children lived with their mother. Now as of March 2012 the oldest son which is now 15 years old lives with myself and my husband. We live two hours from the ex, since march 2012 he has been under my roof and I the stepmother have paid for everything he needed for school, lunches , ect., since my husband lost his job jan 2012 and just recently started working again jan 2013. My question is do I the stepmother have the right to claim the child since he lived with me and my husband for 9 months of 2012, and prior to living with us, he actually lived with his grandparents, for 6 months prior to him living with us, my husbands parents, not the mother! My question do I have the right to claim my stepson? And if so, what do I since we just found out the EX has already claimed him? The child NEVER lived with the EX at all for 2012! And she claimed him, what can we do to get our credit since we did have physical custody? Here is the other part they never went back to court so on paper the EX is the “custodial parent”. But the child has not lived with the “custodialy parent” in a year and a half. My husband and I have physical custody now even though he has not gone back to court yet. How do I get our child credit for my husbands son that I have physical custody of? Help please!

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