Can Unmarried Parents Both Claim Child on Taxes? Exploring the Rules

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As tax season approaches, many unmarried parents may wonder whether they can both claim their child as a dependent for tax purposes. While this may seem like a straightforward question, there are several rules and requirements to consider. In this article, we will explore the rules surrounding claiming dependents and offer some guidance for unmarried parents.

Who Qualifies as a Dependent?

First, it’s important to understand who qualifies as a dependent according to the IRS. To be considered a dependent:
– The person must be a qualifying child or relative.
– They must not provide more than half of their own support during the year.
– They must have lived with you for more than half of the year (with certain exceptions).

Claiming Dependents: A Closer Look

In general, only one person can claim an individual as a dependent on their tax return. However, there are exceptions when multiple taxpayers may be able to claim someone as a dependent:
– If two people who are not married each qualify to claim the same child as their qualifying child under IRS rules
– If two people who are not married share custody of a child but only one parent has legal custody
To determine which parent can legally claim their child as a dependent in cases where both parents qualify is based on certain criteria such as income and residency.

It’s worth noting that failing to follow these guidelines could lead to significant penalties from federal agencies while submitting fraudulent information could result in imprisonment or fines from $250 – $500k depending on how bad your misconduct was deemed.


Navigating tax law can be challenging even for seasoned taxpayers. For unmarried parents determining how best-to-file taxes related questions such “Can Unmarried Parents Both Claim Child on Taxes?” becomes doubly so. Remember that consulting with professional accountants is always ideal especially if you’re somehow confused by tech aspects like filing ex-pat taxes, filing form 1098-T, paying estimated quarterly taxes or simply navigating how the Earned Income Tax Credit works. Remember to discuss with all applicable parties before making decisions so that you won’t put yourself at risk for undesirable tax consequences.


Q1: Can both unmarried parents claim a child as a dependent on their taxes?
A1: No. Only one parent can claim the child as a dependent on their tax return in any given year.

Q2: How do I determine which parent can claim my child as a dependent?
A2: The IRS has specific rules for determining which parent has the right to claim a child as a dependent. Generally, if your child spends more than half of their time with one parent during the year or that parent provides more financial support for your child, then they have priority in claiming your child as a dependent.

Q3: What happens if both parents try to claim my child on their separate tax returns?
A3: If both parents try to claim the same child as a dependent, then only one will be allowed by IRS. To resolve this dispute, you may need to provide evidence supporting your right based on IRS rules and regulations. In some cases, this may require court intervention or arbitration.