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taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175801
Publication 504

Divorced 
or Separated 
Individuals


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What's New(p1)


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taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000190205

Divorce decree or separation agreement that went into effect after 2008.(p1)

Beginning with 2009 tax returns, a noncustodial parent claiming an exemption for a child can no longer attach certain pages from a divorce decree or separation agreement instead of Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, if the decree or agreement went into effect after 2008. This noncustodial parent must attach Form 8332 or a similar statement signed by the custodial parent and whose only purpose is to release a claim to exemption. See Children of Divorced or Separated Parents (or Parents Who Live Apart).
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000190206

Definition of qualifying child revised.(p1)

Beginning in 2009, the following changes have been made to the definition of a qualifying child.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000190251

Revoking a release of claim to a dependent's exemption.(p2)

Beginning in 2009, new rules allow the custodial parent to revoke a release of claim to exemption that was previously released to the noncustodial parent. See Revocation of release of claim to an exemption.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000207714

Definition of custodial parent changed.(p2)

Beginning in 2009, the definition of custodial parent has changed. The custodial parent is the parent with whom the child lived for the greater number of nights. The other parent is the noncustodial parent. See Custodial parent and noncustodial parent under Special rule for divorced or separated parents (or parents who live apart).

Reminders(p2)


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taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175803

Relief from joint liability.(p2)

In some cases, one spouse may be relieved of joint liability for tax, interest, and penalties on a joint tax return. For more information, see Relief from joint liability under Married Filing Jointly.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175806

Social security numbers for dependents.(p2)

You must include the taxpayer identification number (generally the social security number) of every person for whom you claim an exemption. See Exemptions for Dependents under Exemptions, later.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175809

Individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).(p2)

The IRS will issue an ITIN to a nonresident or resident alien who does not have and is not eligible to get a social security number (SSN). To apply for an ITIN, file Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, with the IRS. It takes about 6 to 10 weeks to get an ITIN. The ITIN is entered wherever an SSN is requested on a tax return. If you are required to include another person's SSN on your return and that person does not have and cannot get an SSN, enter that person's ITIN.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175810

Change of address.(p2)

If you change your mailing address, be sure to notify the Internal Revenue Service. You can use Form 8822, Change of Address. Mail it to the Internal Revenue Service Center for your old address. (Addresses for the Service Centers are on the back of the form.)
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175811

Change of name.(p2)

If you change your name, be sure to notify the Social Security Administration using Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175812

Change of withholding.(p2)

If you have been claiming a withholding exemption for your spouse, and you divorce or legally separate, you must give your employer a new Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate, within 10 days after the divorce or separation showing the correct number of exemptions.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175813

Photographs of missing children.(p2)

The Internal Revenue Service is a proud partner with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Photographs of missing children selected by the Center may appear in this publication on pages that would otherwise be blank. You can help bring these children home by looking at the photographs and calling 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) if you recognize a child.

taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#TXMP49bef4b9Introduction

This publication explains tax rules that apply if you are divorced or separated from your spouse. It covers general filing information and can help you choose your filing status. It also can help you decide which exemptions you are entitled to claim, including exemptions for dependents.
The publication also discusses payments and transfers of property that often occur as a result of divorce and how you must treat them on your tax return. Examples include alimony, child support, other court-ordered payments, property settlements, and transfers of individual retirement arrangements. In addition, this publication also explains deductions allowed for some of the costs of obtaining a divorce and how to handle tax withholding and estimated tax payments.
The last part of the publication explains special rules that may apply to persons who live in community property states.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175814

Comments and suggestions.(p2)


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We welcome your comments about this publication and your suggestions for future editions.
You can write to us at the following address:

 
Internal Revenue Service 
Individual Forms and Publications Branch 
SE:W:CAR:MP:T:I 
1111 Constitution Ave. NW, IR-6526 
Washington, DC 20224


We respond to many letters by telephone. Therefore, it would be helpful if you would include your daytime phone number, including the area code, in your correspondence.
You can email us at *taxforms@irs.gov. (The asterisk must be included in the address.) Please put "Publications Comment" on the subject line. Although we cannot respond individually to each email, we do appreciate your feedback and will consider your comments as we revise our tax products.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175815

Ordering forms and publications.(p2)
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Visit www.irs.gov/formspubs to download forms and publications, call 1-800-829-3676, or write to the following address and receive a response within 10 days after your request is received.

 
Internal Revenue Service 
1201 N. Mitsubishi Motorway 
Bloomington, IL 61705-6613


taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175816

Tax questions.(p3)
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If you have a tax question, check the information available on www.irs.gov or call 1-800-829-1040. We cannot answer tax questions sent to either of the above addresses.

taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#TXMP32660be8

Useful items

You may want to see:


Publications
 501 Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information
 544 Sales and Other Dispositions of Assets
 555 Community Property
 590 Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs)
 971 Innocent Spouse Relief
Form (and Instructions)
 8332: Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent
 8379: Injured Spouse Allocation
 8857: Request for Innocent Spouse Relief
See How To Get Tax Help near the end of this publication for information about getting publications and forms.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175818

Filing Status(p3)


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Your filing status is used in determining whether you must file a return, your standard deduction, and the correct tax. It may also be used in determining whether you can claim certain other deductions and credits. The filing status you can choose depends partly on your marital status on the last day of your tax year.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175819

Marital status.(p3)


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If you are unmarried, your filing status is single or, if you meet certain requirements, head of household or qualifying widow(er). If you are married, your filing status is either married filing a joint return or married filing a separate return. For information about the single and qualifying widow(er) filing statuses, see Publication 501.
For federal tax purposes, a marriage means only a legal union between a man and a woman as husband and wife.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175820

Unmarried persons.(p3)
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You are unmarried for the whole year if either of the following applies.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175821

Married persons.(p3)
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You are married for the whole year if you are separated but you have not obtained a final decree of divorce or separate maintenance by the last day of your tax year. An interlocutory decree is not a final decree.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175822

Exception.(p3)
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If you live apart from your spouse, under certain circumstances, you may be considered unmarried and can file as head of household. See Head of Household, later.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175824

Married Filing Jointly(p3)


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If you are married, you and your spouse can choose to file a joint return. If you file jointly, you both must include all your income, exemptions, deductions, and credits on that return. You can file a joint return even if one of you had no income or deductions.
Deposit
If both you and your spouse have income, you should usually figure your tax on both a joint return and separate returns (using the filing status of married filing separately) to see which gives the two of you the lower combined tax.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175826

Nonresident alien.(p3)


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To file a joint return, at least one of you must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien at the end of the tax year. If either of you was a nonresident alien at any time during the tax year, you can file a joint return only if you agree to treat the nonresident spouse as a resident of the United States. This means that your combined worldwide incomes are subject to U.S. income tax. These rules are explained in Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175827

Signing a joint return.(p3)


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Both you and your spouse generally must sign the return, or it will not be considered a joint return.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175828

Joint and individual liability.(p3)


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Both you and your spouse may be held responsible, jointly and individually, for the tax and any interest or penalty due on your joint return. This means that one spouse may be held liable for all the tax due even if all the income was earned by the other spouse.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175829

Divorced taxpayers.(p3)
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If you are divorced, you are jointly and individually responsible for any tax, interest, and penalties due on a joint return for a tax year ending before your divorce. This responsibility applies even if your divorce decree states that your former spouse will be responsible for any amounts due on previously filed joint returns.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175830

Relief from joint liability.(p3)
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In some cases, a spouse may be relieved of the tax, interest, and penalties on a joint return. You can ask for relief no matter how small the liability.
There are three types of relief available.
Married persons who live in community property states, but who did not file joint returns, may also qualify for relief from liability arising from community property law or for equitable relief. See Relief from liability arising from community property law , later, under Community Property.
Innocent spouse relief applies only to items incorrectly reported on or omitted from the return. If a spouse does not qualify for innocent spouse relief or separation of liability, or relief from liability arising from community property law, the IRS may grant equitable relief.
Each of these kinds of relief have different requirements. You must file Form 8857 to request relief under any of these categories. Publication 971 explains these kinds of relief and who may qualify for them. You can also find information on our website at www.irs.gov.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175833

Tax refund applied to spouse's debts.(p4)


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The overpayment shown on your joint return may be used to pay the past-due amount of your spouse's debts. This includes your spouse's federal tax, state income tax, child or spousal support payments, or a federal nontax debt, such as a student loan. You can get a refund of your share of the overpayment if you qualify as an injured spouse.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175834

Injured spouse.(p4)
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You are an injured spouse if you file a joint return and all or part of your share of the overpayment was, or is expected to be, applied against your spouse's past-due debts. An injured spouse can get a refund for his or her share of the overpayment that would otherwise be used to pay the past-due amount.
To be considered an injured spouse, you must:
  1. Have made and reported tax payments (such as federal income tax withheld from wages or estimated tax payments), or claimed a refundable tax credit, such as the earned income credit or additional child tax credit on the joint return, and
  2. Not be legally obligated to pay the past-due amount.
Note.If the injured spouse's permanent home is in a community property state, then the injured spouse must only meet (2) above. For more information, see Publication 555.
EIC
Refunds that involve community property states must be divided according to local law. If you live in a community property state in which all community property is subject to the debts of either spouse, your entire refund is generally used to pay those debts.  
 
If you are an injured spouse, you must file Form 8379 to have your portion of the overpayment refunded to you. Follow the instructions for the form.
If you have not filed your joint return and you know that your joint refund will be offset, file Form 8379 with your return. You should receive your refund within 14 weeks from the date the paper return is filed or within 11 weeks from the date the return is filed electronically.
If you filed your joint return and your joint refund was offset, file Form 8379 by itself. When filed after offset, it can take up to 8 weeks to receive your refund. Do not attach the previously filed tax return, but do include copies of all Forms W-2 and W-2G for both spouses and any Forms 1099 that show income tax withheld.
EIC
An injured spouse claim is different from an innocent spouse relief request. An injured spouse uses Form 8379 to request an allocation of the tax overpayment attributed to each spouse. An innocent spouse uses Form 8857 to request relief from joint liability for tax, interest, and penalties on a joint return for items of the other spouse (or former spouse) that were incorrectly reported on or omitted from the joint return. For information on innocent spouses, see Relief from joint liability, earlier.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175839

Married Filing Separately(p4)


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If you and your spouse file separate returns, you should each report only your own income, exemptions, deductions, and credits on your individual return. You can file a separate return even if only one of you had income. For information on exemptions you can claim on your separate return, see Exemptions, later.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175841

Community or separate income.(p4)


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If you live in a community property state and file a separate return, your income may be separate income or community income for income tax purposes. For more information, see Community Income under Community Property, later.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175844

Separate liability.(p4)


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If you and your spouse file separately, you each are responsible only for the tax due on your own return.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175845

Itemized deductions.(p4)


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If you and your spouse file separate returns and one of you itemizes deductions, the other spouse cannot use the standard deduction and should also itemize deductions.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175846
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Table 1. Itemized Deductions on Separate Returns

This table shows itemized deductions you can claim on your married filing separate return whether you paid the expenses separately with your own funds or jointly with your spouse. Caution: If you live in a community property state, these rules do not apply. See Community Property.

IF you paid ...   AND you ...    THEN you can deduct on your separate federal return...  
 medical expenses paid with funds deposited in a joint checking account in which you and your spouse have an equal interest  half of the total medical expenses, subject to certain limits, unless you can show that you alone paid the expenses.  
 state income tax file a separate state income tax return  the state income tax you alone paid during the year.  
   file a joint state income tax return and you and your spouse are jointly and individually liable for the full amount of the state income tax  the state income tax you alone paid during the year.  
   file a joint state income tax return and you
are liable for only your own share of state
income tax
  the smaller of:
  • the state income tax you alone paid during the year, or
  • the total state income tax you and your spouse paid during the year multiplied by the following fraction. The numerator is your gross income and the denominator
    is your combined gross income.
 
 property tax paid the tax on property held as tenants by the entirety  the property tax you alone paid.  
 mortgage interest paid the interest on a qualified home1 held
as tenants by the entirety
  the mortgage interest you alone paid.  
 casualty loss have a casualty loss on a home you own
as tenants by the entirety
  half of the loss, subject to the deduction limits. Neither spouse may report the total casualty loss.
1 For more information on a qualified home and deductible mortgage interest, see Publication 936, Home Mortgage Interest Deduction.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175850

Dividing itemized deductions.(p4)
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You may be able to claim itemized deductions on a separate return for certain expenses that you paid separately or jointly with your spouse. See Table 1, later.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175852

Separate returns may give you a higher tax.(p4)


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Some married couples file separate returns because each wants to be responsible only for his or her own tax. There is no joint liability. But in almost all instances, if you file separate returns, you will pay more combined federal tax than you would with a joint return. This is because the following special rules apply if you file a separate return.
  1. Your tax rate generally will be higher than it would be on a joint return.
  2. Your exemption amount for figuring the alternative minimum tax will be half of that allowed a joint return filer.
  3. You cannot take the credit for child and dependent care expenses in most cases.
  4. You cannot take the earned income credit.
  5. You cannot take the exclusion or credit for adoption expenses in most instances.
  6. You cannot take the credit for higher education expenses (American opportunity, Hope, and lifetime learning credits), the deduction for student loan interest, or the tuition and fees deduction.
  7. You cannot exclude the interest from qualified savings bonds that you used for higher education expenses.
  8. If you lived with your spouse at any time during the tax year:
    1. You cannot claim the credit for the elderly or the disabled,
    2. You will have to include in income more (up to 85%) of any social security or equivalent railroad retirement benefits you received, and
    3. You cannot roll over amounts from an eligible retirement plan (other than a Roth IRA or designated Roth account) into a Roth IRA.
  9. Your income limits that reduce the child tax credit, retirement savings contributions credit, itemized deductions, and the deduction for personal exemptions will be half of the limits allowed a joint return filer.
  10. Your capital loss deduction limit is $1,500 (instead of $3,000 on a joint return).
  11. Your basic standard deduction, if allowable, is half of that allowed a joint return filer. See Itemized deductions, earlier.
  12. Your first-time homebuyer credit is limited to $4,000 (instead of $8,000 if you filed a joint return). If the special rule for long-time residents of the same main home applies, the credit is limited to $3,250 (instead of $6,500 if you filed a joint return).
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175854

Joint return after separate returns.(p6)


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If either you or your spouse (or both of you) file a separate return, you generally can change to a joint return any time within 3 years from the due date (not including extensions) of the separate return or returns. This applies to a return either of you filed claiming married filing separately, single, or head of household filing status. Use Form 1040X to change your filing status.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175855

Separate returns after joint return.(p6)


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After the due date of your return, you and your spouse cannot file separate returns if you previously filed a joint return.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175856

Exception.(p6)
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A personal representative for a decedent can change from a joint return elected by the surviving spouse to a separate return for the decedent. The personal representative has 1 year from the due date (including extensions) of the joint return to make the change.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175857

Head of Household(p6)


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Filing as head of household has the following advantages.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175858

Requirements.(p6)


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You may be able to file as head of household if you meet all the following requirements.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175861

Considered unmarried.(p6)


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You are considered unmarried on the last day of the tax year if you meet all the following tests.
EIC
If you were considered married for part of the year and lived in a community property state (one of the states listed later under Community Property), special rules may apply in determining your income and expenses. See Publication 555 for more information.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175870

Nonresident alien spouse.(p6)
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If your spouse was a nonresident alien at any time during the tax year, and you have not chosen to treat your spouse as a resident alien, you are considered unmarried for head of household purposes. However, your spouse is not a qualifying person for head of household purposes. You must have another qualifying person and meet the other requirements to file as head of household.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175871

Keeping up a home.(p6)


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You are keeping up a home only if you pay more than half the cost of its upkeep for the year. This includes rent, mortgage interest, real estate taxes, insurance on the home, repairs, utilities, and food eaten in the home. This does not include the cost of clothing, education, medical treatment, vacations, life insurance, or transportation for any member of the household.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175872

Qualifying person.(p6)


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Table 2, later, shows who can be a qualifying person. Any person not described in Table 2 is not a qualifying person.
Generally, the qualifying person must live with you for more than half of the year.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175875
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Table 2. Who Is a Qualifying Person Qualifying You To File as Head of Household?1

Caution. See the text of this publication for the other requirements you must meet to claim head of household filing status.

IF the person is your ...AND ...THEN that person is ...
 qualifying child (such as a son, daughter, or grandchild who lived with you more than half the year and meets certain other tests)2 he or she is singlea qualifying person, whether or not you can claim an exemption for the person. 
 he or she is married and you can claim an exemption for him or hera qualifying person. 
 he or she is married and you cannot claim an exemption for him or hernot a qualifying person.3  
 qualifying relative4 who is your father or motheryou can claim an exemption for him or her5 a qualifying person.6  
 you cannot claim an exemption for him or hernot a qualifying person. 
 qualifying relative4 other than your father or mother (such as a grandparent, brother, or sister who meets certain tests) he or she lived with you more than half the year, and he or she is related to you in one of the ways listed under Relatives who do not have to live with you in Publication 501 and you can claim an exemption for him or her5 a qualifying person. 
 he or she did not live with you more than half the yearnot a qualifying person. 
 he or she is not related to you in one of the ways listed under Relatives who do not have to live with you in Publication 501 and is your qualifying relative only because he or she lived with you all year as a member of your householdnot a qualifying person. 
 you cannot claim an exemption for him or hernot a qualifying person. 
1 A person cannot qualify more than one taxpayer to use the head of household filing status for the year.
2 See Table 3, later, for the tests that must be met to be a qualifying child. Note. If you are a noncustodial parent, the term "qualifying child" for head of household filing status does not include a child who is your qualifying child for exemption purposes only because of the rules described under Children of Divorced or Separated Parents (or Parents Who Live Apart) under Exemptions for Dependents , later. If you are the custodial parent and those rules apply, the child is generally your qualifying child for head of household filing status even though the child is not a qualifying child for whom you can claim an exemption.
3 This person is a qualifying person if the only reason you cannot claim the exemption is that you can be claimed as a dependent on someone else's return.
4 See Table 3, later, for the tests that must be met to be a qualifying relative.
5 If you can claim an exemption for a person only because of a multiple support agreement, that person is not a qualifying person. See Multiple Support Agreement in Publication 501.
6 See Special rule for parent for an additional requirement.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175884

Special rule for parent.(p6)
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If your qualifying person is your father or mother, you may be eligible to file as head of household even if your father or mother does not live with you. However, you must be able to claim an exemption for your father or mother. Also, you must pay more than half the cost of keeping up a home that was the main home for the entire year for your father or mother. You are keeping up a main home for your father or mother if you pay more than half the cost of keeping your parent in a rest home or home for the elderly.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175885

Death or birth.(p7)
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You may be eligible to file as head of household if the individual who qualifies you for this filing status is born or dies during the year. You must have provided more than half of the cost of keeping up a home that was the individual's main home for more than half of the year, or, if less, the period during which the individual lived.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175886

Example.(p7)

You are unmarried. Your mother, for whom you can claim an exemption, lived in an apartment by herself. She died on September 2. The cost of the upkeep of her apartment for the year until her death was $6,000. You paid $4,000 and your brother paid $2,000. Your brother made no other payments towards your mother's support. Your mother had no income. Because you paid more than half of the cost of keeping up your mother's apartment from January 1 until her death, and you can claim an exemption for her, you can file as a head of household.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175887

Temporary absences.(p7)
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You and your qualifying person are considered to live together even if one or both of you are temporarily absent from your home due to special circumstances such as illness, education, business, vacation, or military service. It must be reasonable to assume that the absent person will return to the home after the temporary absence. You must continue to keep up the home during the absence.
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175888

Kidnapped child.(p7)
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You may be eligible to file as head of household, even if the child who is your qualifying person has been kidnapped. You can claim head of household filing status if all the following statements are true.
This treatment applies for all years until the child is returned. However, the last year this treatment can apply is the earlier of:
taxmap/pubs/p504-000.htm#en_us_publink1000175889

More information.(p8)


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For more information on filing as head of household, see Publication 501.