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How does the timing of divorce affect tax filing status?

As Colorado residents approach the annual income tax filing deadline, many are beginning to gather their records together for purposes of preparing their returns. Those who are in the process of divorce may have questions about their filing status.

In general, the tax filing status of an individual is determined by their marital status on December 31 of the tax year. If a couple got married on December 31, 2014, they have the right to file a joint return for 2014. The IRS does not consider a couple divorced unless the divorce was finalized by December 31 of the tax year in question. If a couple got divorced in 2014 and the divorce was finalized by December 31, that couple cannot file a joint return for 2014. If a couple is in the process of getting divorced, live apart and are no longer depending on each other's income as of December 31, but the divorce is not yet finalized, they are still married in the eyes of the IRS for that year.

The IRS recognizes same-sex marriages. Same-sex couples are deemed married by the IRS as long as they were married in a state or foreign country in which same-sex marriage is legal. For same-sex couples who were married in a state that identifies same-sex marriages, who then move to a state that does not, the IRS still considers the couple married. Couples who have entered into a domestic partnership or a civil union - such as under Colorado's civil union statute - but have not married are not considered married by the IRS.

The information in this post is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered specific legal advice. If you have questions about your federal income tax filing status you should discuss the issue with your tax preparer and your family law attorney.

Source: Internal Revenue Service, "Publication 17," accessed on Feb. 23, 2015

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