Are Child Custody Legal Fees Tax Deductible?

by Jack Ori ; Updated September 11, 2015
Most legal fees are not tax deductible.

You might be tempted to write off your legal fees for your divorce on your taxes, particularly if you have a high lawyer's bill to pay in addition to taxes and expenses for your kids, but the Internal Revenue Service does not allow you to do this. Under certain circumstances, however, you can deduct some of your legal fees. A tax professional or attorney can tell you what specifically is deductible and what is not.

General Information

In general, legal fees related to divorce are not tax deductible. An exception, according to Divorce Net, are legal fees related to obtaining spousal support. Because spousal support is considered taxable income, costs you incurred to get that support are deducted. However, child support is not considered taxable income. Therefore, legal fees related to obtaining child support orders are not tax deductible either.

Mental Illness

As of November 2010, the tax code allows you to take a deduction for legal fees related to authorizing treatment for mental illness. Therefore, if your lawyer petitioned the judge to order your former spouse to pay for psychiatric treatment for your child, you can deduct the portion of legal fees used to resolve this matter from your taxes as a medical expense.

Filing Status and Custody

While you cannot deduct legal fees related to arranging custody for your children, you can save money on your taxes by filing as head of household if your child lives with you for six months or more during the year; you pay more than half her expenses and you pay for more than half of the upkeep on your home. You must be unmarried to claim head of household status.

Tax Advice

If you receive tax advice form your lawyer in connection with your divorce -- i.e. how to claim head of household status or whether you can take an exemption for your children -- you may deduct these legal fees. However, you must obtain a bill from your lawyer that clearly lists which portion of the legal fees are for tax advice.


Allowable deductions for legal fees, except for fees related to requiring a parent to pay for psychiatric services for a child, are considered miscellaneous deductions. As of 2012, you may only deduct legal fees than exceed 2 percent of your adjusted gross as a miscellaneous itemized deduction on Schedule A. For example, if your adjusted gross income is $65,000, you may not deduct the first $1,300 in miscellaneous fees. Thus, if you paid $2,500 for tax advice from your lawyer, you may only deduct $1,200.

About the Author

Jack Ori has been a writer since 2009. He has worked with clients in the legal, financial and nonprofit industries, as well as contributed self-help articles to various publications.

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