When you file your taxes, you must select your filing status. The Internal Revenue Service classifies must filers as single, married filing separately, married filing jointly or head of household. Married couples and divorced couples with children fall into one of the three categories, depending on their martial status and financial situation.
Qualifying for Head of Household
To qualify as head of household, you must be divorced or unmarried on the last day of the year. You must pay for more than half of the cost of your home yourself, your child must live with you the majority of the time and you must pay for more than half of the child's living expenses. Your former spouse cannot have lived in the home within the last six months. When you claim head of household, you must complete an individual tax return.
Other Filing Statuses
After a divorce, only one parent can claim head of household for the child. Married couples must use a different filing status. Married couple can choose to file separate tax returns and report themselves as married filing separately, or file one joint return and report themselves as married filling jointly. Married couples, or those in the process of a divorce who do not meet the qualifications cannot claim head of household.
Parents qualify for a child tax credit. Married couples filing jointly can apply the child tax credit to their joint return. Married couples filing separately must add the tax credit to one parent's tax return. After a divorce, the parent who files head of household generally claims the child tax credit. However, the qualifying parent can sign a waiver allowing the other parent to use the tax credit.
You can receive a tax deduction based on your filing status. H&R Block reports that as of 2010 a parent filing as head of household receives an $8,400 deduction. Married couples filing separately receive a $5,700 deduction. Married couples filing jointly receive an $11,400 deduction. You may qualify for other deductions as well, such as child medical payments or alimony payments. A licensed tax adviser can explain all of your qualified deductions.