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If I'm paying child support for my children but they don't live with me, can I claim them as dependents?

When claiming a child, the amount of support you provide usually doesn't matter. Instead, to qualify as a dependent, the child must not provide more than half of his or her own support for the year.

The child must live with you more than half of the year. So, the child of divorced or separated parents is usually the qualifying child of the parent the child lived with the longest. This is the custodial parent according to the tax law.

However, the child can be the qualifying child of the noncustodial parent if all of these are true:

  • One or both parents provided more than half of the child's total support for the year.
  • One or both parents have custody of the child for more than half of the year.
  • The parents are divorced, legally separated, or lived apart at all times during the last six months of the year.

In the above situation, the noncustodial parent can take the dependency exemption if one of these is true:

  • The custodial parent gives up the exemption by signing a Form 8332: Release / Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent. The noncustodial parent must attach the Form 8332 to the return.
  • The noncustodial parent attaches an agreement that took effect from 1985-2008. The agreement must say:
    • That the noncustodial parent can claim the child without regard to any condition, like payment of support
    • Which years the noncustodial parent can claim the child
    • That the custodial parent won't claim the child for those years


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