1. Determine your filing status. Your marital status at the end of the year determines how you file your tax return. If you were divorced by midnight on December 31 of the tax year, you will file separately from your former spouse. If you are the custodial parent for your children, you may qualify for the favorable head of household status. If not, then you will file as a single taxpayer, even if you were married for part of the tax year.
2. Consider the tax implications of support. Child support is not deductible to the person who pays it, but maintenance is. Likewise, the recipient of maintenance must claim it on her tax return, but child support isn’t reported as income. If you rolled your support together into “family support” in your agreement, that makes it fully taxable to the recipient and deductible to the payer, just like maintenance.
3. Don’t run afoul of the special rules regarding support. If maintenance payments are concentrated in the first year or two after divorce, the IRS may consider the money to be non-deductible property settlement. And if maintenance is scheduled to end within six months of a child’s 18th or 21st birthday, the IRS may consider the alimony, in reality, to be disguised child support.