Submitted by Attorney Kirk Smith
There is a general discontent among those who must pay child support. The consensus among them is not that they are unwilling to financially support their children; but rather, that they seemingly overcompensate the primary physical custodian for the expenses of the children, as these expenses fall appreciably lower than the child support they owe. Notwithstanding this perceived inequity, there is some consultation for child support obligors, as their tax liabilities generally decrease due to paying child support.
When child support is calculated each parent will be obligated to pay a specific percentage of the total amount calculated. How this plays out typically is that the primary physical custodian will pay nothing directly to the non-custodial parent, but the non-custodial parent will pay a specified sum each month to the primary physical custodian. For the purpose of this discussion do not get caught up in the fact that the primary physical custodian typically pays nothing directly to the non-custodial parent despite being allocated a percentage of the child support obligation.
An example of how these percentages might be allocated is; the primary physical custodian would be obligated to pay 20% of the total amount of child support calculated and the non-custodial parent would be obligated to pay 80% of the total amount of the child support calculated.
The family law courts will use these percentages under Number 27 of the Appendix of Arizona Revised Statutes 25-320, to determine the allocation between the parties of the dependent tax benefit, for the years following the divorce or separation.
Number 27 of the Appendix of Arizona Revised Statutes 25-320 states;
All the federal and state tax exemptions applicable to the minor children shall be allocated between the parents as they agree, or, in the absence of their agreement, in a manner that allows each parent to claim allowable federal dependency exemptions proportionate to adjusted gross income…To implement this provision, the proportionate share of the combined adjusted gross income of both parents is rounded to the nearest fraction with a denominator no larger than 5 (i.e. 1/2, 1/3, 2/3, 1/4, 3/4, 1/5, 2/5, 3/5, 4/5).
Applying this statute to the above example, and assuming that the parties have only 1 child, the non-custodial parent would receive the dependent tax benefit 4 out of the next 5 years. Looking at the years following the divorce or separation, 80% of 5 years is four years. The percentage then used to determine each parent’s child support obligation is also used to determine who receives the dependent tax benefit each year.
Figuring out who receives the dependent tax benefit can become more complicated with multiple children between the parties, however, the aforementioned principles still apply. Child support obligors then can take a measure of solace that even though their finances will diminish due to their child support obligation; their finances typically increase when it comes to receiving their yearend tax refund.