If you and your spouse separate before the end of the calendar year, you may be able to file your income taxes as head of household. This allows you to save money on taxes by taking advantage of a higher standard deduction and lower tax rates.
California requires a finalized divorce or legal separation judgment from the court to prove your married or unmarried status.
In order to qualify as head of household, the IRS requires you meet the following provisions:
- You are unmarried or “considered unmarried” on the last day of the year.
- You paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year.
- A “qualifying person” lived with you in the home for more than half the year (except for temporary absences, such as college). However, if the “qualifying person” is your dependent parent, he/she does not have to live with you.
Several criteria defines a “qualifying person,” which could include children, stepchildren, foster children, and other youth who meet the expectations set under the qualifying children rules. Parents, siblings, and other relatives may also apply under the IRS Publication 501.
Determining Whether You are Married or Unmarried
The IRS uses the state you live in to determine your status as a married or single person. California requires a finalized divorce or legal separation judgment from the court to prove your married or unmarried status.
Even if you are not legally separated, you might be eligible to file as head of household under the following five conditions:
- You filed a separate income tax return.
- You paid more than half the cost of keeping up your home for the tax year.
- Your spouse did not live in your home during the last six months of the tax year. Your spouse is considered a resident even if he/she is temporarily absent due to special circumstances.
- Your home was the main home of your child, stepchild, or foster child for more than half the year.
- You must be able to claim exemption for the child. However, you meet this test if the noncustodial parent claims an exemption for the child.