How to File Taxes If You Are Divorced

When your marriage ends, your tax situation changes. Filing taxes after divorce is complicated because while divorce is the end of your legal marriage, your ex-spouse is still obligated to pay your fair share of federal income tax. 

If your divorce is finalized by midnight on Dec. 31 of the tax-filing year, the IRS will consider you unmarried for the entire year, making it impossible for you to file a joint return.

Here are some other things to note:


Forms 1040A and 1040EZ no longer available. Form 1040 has been redesigned to include reporting previously done on Forms 1040A and 1040EZ. Filers of these forms will now file Form 1040. Despite this change, some forms and publications that were released in 2017 or early 2018 (for example, Form W-2) may still reference Form 1040A or 1040-EZ. Please disregard those references. 

The redesigned Form 1040 now has six new numbered schedules in addition to the existing schedules such as Schedule A.

Many people will only need to file Form 1040 and none of the new numbered schedules. However, if your return is more complicated (for example, if you claim certain deductions or credits or owe additional taxes), you will need to complete one or more of the new numbered schedules.


Personal exemption suspended. The personal exemption deduction for you, your spouse, or a dependent has been suspended for tax years 2018 through 2025.

Divorce or separation agreements after 2018. Amounts paid as alimony or separate maintenance payments under a divorce or separation agreement executed, or changed, after 2018 won’t be deductible by the payer. Such amounts also won’t be includible in the income of the recipient.

ITIN renewals for certain spouses and dependents residing outside of the United States. Generally, an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) that hasn’t been included on a U.S. federal tax return at least once for tax years 2015, 2016, or 2017, and ITINs assigned before 2013, must be renewed to avoid delays in processing your tax return. However, spouses and dependents residing outside of the United States who could’ve been claimed in previous years for the personal exemption and no other benefit don’t need to renew their ITINs, unless they anticipate being claimed for a different tax benefit or if they file their own tax return. 

Community property. Several states have enacted laws that allow residents (and in some cases nonresidents) to elect to treat certain income and property as community property.  

Health care law. Under the health care law, you must have qualifying health care coverage, qualify for an exemption from qualifying health care coverage, or make a shared responsibility payment. Your divorce or separation may affect your responsibilities under the health care law.  

Relief from joint liability. In some cases, one spouse may be relieved of joint liability for tax, interest, and penalties on a joint tax return.  

Social security numbers for dependents. You must include on your tax return the taxpayer identification number (generally, the social security number (SSN)) of every dependent you claim. 

Using and getting an ITIN. The ITIN is entered wherever an SSN is requested on a tax return. If you’re required to include another person’s SSN on your return and that person doesn’t have and can’t get an SSN, enter that person’s ITIN. The IRS will issue an ITIN to a nonresident or resident alien who doesn’t have and isn’t eligible to get an SSN. To apply for an ITIN, file Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, with the IRS. Allow 7 weeks for the IRS to notify you of your ITIN application status (9 to 11 weeks if you submit the application during peak processing periods (January 15 through April 30) or if you’re filing from overseas). If you haven’t received your ITIN at the end of that time, you can call the IRS to check the status of your application.  

Change of address. If you change your mailing address, be sure to notify the IRS. 

Change of name. If you change your name, be sure to notify the Social Security Administration using Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card.

Change of withholding. If you have been claiming a withholding exemption for your spouse, and you divorce or legally separate, you must give your employer a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, within 10 days after the divorce or separation. Additionally, you should claim Head of Household if you have a child. Under the new tax law, the standard deduction is $18,000 for Head of Household compared to $12,000 for single filing status.


Source: Internal Revenue Service: