Who gets to claim the children for tax benefits?

Mens divorce lawyerQuestion:

In our divorce decree, it is stipulated that whichever party is able to maximize the tax benefit for our dependent son would be able to claim him for tax purposes.

But that is only applicable in the years that I pay at least 51% of his college tuition. This year I did not pay 51% so my wife says she gets to claim him, but the tax benefits would be greater if I claimed him this year.

Who is right in this situation?


In the state I practice in, the application of the Marital Settlement Agreement’s terms and conditions is usually determined by the parties’ intent at the time of signing the agreement.

Based upon the facts that you indicated, it appears that the intent was for the extra tax money to go towards the cost of your child’s education.

However, it also seems that the extra provision that you must pay 51% of the college costs is a condition of that benefit.

What concerns me is that the agreement fails to mention how much your ex-wife is responsible for paying. If your ex was not responsible for any amount, then maybe the tax provision was included as a method of making up that difference.

Without knowing the true intent behind the provision, it is difficult to give you an opinion as to the legal obligations resulting from it. Please understand that my opinions are based upon the limited facts that you provided to me. For a more in depth discussion of your legal rights in your state, I urge you to contact an attorney immediately.

Cordell & Cordell has well qualified and experienced men’s divorce lawyers nationwide if you require additional legal assistance.


Michelle Hughes is an Associate Attorney in the Jefferson County, Missouri office of Cordell & Cordell where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Hughes is licensed in the states of Missouri and Illinois, and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. A native to metro St. Louis, Ms. Hughes received her BBA in Economics and Finances from McKendree College. She later received her Juris Doctor from Thomas Cooley Law School where she graduated cum laude.

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