By Jedidiah McKeehan
A question that often comes up in divorce cases is, “How do we file for taxes? Don’t we have to file for taxes together?”
I am no tax attorney, but my basic knowledge of tax law gives me a little insight into how to handle this situation. As a married person you have the option of filing jointly with your spouse, or filing, “married, filing separate.” You do not have to file a joint tax return with your spouse, regardless of whether you are going through a divorce or not.
Again, working off my very basic knowledge of tax law, it’s my understanding that the return received is reduced when married individuals file separately instead of jointly. However, filing separately may be the best option.
When you file jointly, any return received is deposited into one account. Unless both parties are honorable and agree to how any refund is to be split, and stick to their agreement, one party may pull out the entire refund the minute it hits the bank account. I am not saying that will happen, but I have seen it happen often. How do you avoid this? By filing separately. That way, your refund goes to the account you designate and there is no concern about the refund being pulled out by your ex.
Often people will tell me, “We are filing together and the other party has agreed to give me half of the refund.” Great. I hope they honor their agreement and you are not calling me telling me they pulled out the refund and put it in a separate account to which you do not have access. Especially without a written agreement stating what you all have agreed to do.
Another situation that may cause a separate tax filing. Some individuals are so traumatized and terrified (sometimes justifiably, sometimes not), that they are gripped with fear thinking about having to interact with their ex to file for taxes. Filing separately alleviates that concern.
Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing divorce, custody, criminal, and personal injury. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.