Taxes post divorce?

It’s tax season and I’m curious if there is anything I need to do regarding filing my 2015 taxes.

My divorce was final in 2015, so I know that I file based on my marital status on Dec 31, 2015. However, I am unclear on how to handle the child tax credit and the mortgage interest deduction. Specifically, I’m unclear on whether we are required to have a written agreement on these topics before either of us can claim anything.

The divorce is/was unfortunately extremely “high conflict”. No need to go into the gory details. If you’ve been in those situations you know it’s very difficult to have an open dialog about anything. You just end up revealing what you want (which gives your ex an weapon), resolving nothing (because they are so angry) and making it impossible to collaborate on routine stuff for a few weeks (because they remembered how angry they are).

1). Does there have to be a written agreement before either party can claim the child on their taxes?

2). Does there have to be a written agreement before either party can claim a portion of the mortgage interest deduction? Or can you simply do what you think think is fair and reasonable (for example, 50%) and know you’re exposing yourself to an audit risk if your ex is silly and puts the entire interest deduction on their taxes too? Or can neither of you put down anything until you have a written agreement? I’m assuming the IRS doesn’t want to get pulled into divorce settlements, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the latter was the truth.

Just gathering facts.

It is best to have an agreement on how the dependency exemption and mortgage interest deduction are handled, but this isn’t always possible. The way many people will handle the dependency exemption is to either alternate who can claim it each year, or if there are two children many people will chose to each claim one child each year. We discuss this issue, and what happens when parents can’t agree about the dependency exemption in our article Children and Taxes.

As far as the mortgage interest deduction, the person who is actually making the mortgage payments should be entitled to claim this deduction.