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Divorce experts recommend that tax returns be filed separately

Divorcing spouses in California and around the country might take heed of a financial writer's advice that disentangling themselves from tax compliance with their former partner is often a good idea. Although couples are expected to separate property in a marital dissolution, in many situations, it is assumed that they will file one final joint tax return for the final year of their marriage. However, some advisers recommend filing one's own tax trail separately once a divorce is done.

In the case of one divorced couple, the ex-husband assumed that they would continue their usual habit of the ex-wife doing their joint return for the final year that they were married. He gave her all his tax information, but she didn't file a joint return. She did her return as married filing separately and his as single. She reported his income lower than it was, increased his withholdings by $3,000 and had his more than $3,000 refund sent to her account. They had two joint checking accounts that were treated as his and hers.

The ex-husband was alarmed at the 1099-R he received from his financial services company because it appeared that money had been stolen from his account. What had happened was that his ex-wife also claimed more than $37,000 from the fund, which she used for a vacation and set up her own post-split household. Although their final divorce agreement paid him back what his wife had taken, the situation would never have arisen if they did the taxes together.

The end of a marriage can present many difficult issues, such as child custody and spousal support. A lawyer may be able to assist divorcing spouses in keeping the process amicable and done as efficiently as possible.

Source: Forbes, "Post Divorce Tax Intimacy Can Be Riskier Than Post Divorce Sex", Peter J. Reilly, January 07, 2014

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