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Joint Tax Returns - Do What is Best for Your Family

For most people, their wedding day is a culmination of hopes and dreams - the beginning of "happily ever after." G. K. Chesterton reportedly quips, "The fairy tales said that the prince and princess lived happily ever afterwards; and so they did. They lived happily, although it is very likely that from time to time they threw the furniture at each other."

Couples who navigate this business of living with another flawed human being stay married, but our office regularly hears from those who cannot live happily together any longer and so find the only option is divorce.

Sometimes when we are going through a major conflict, which is what divorce certainly is, we want to hurt the other party, even if it results in hurting ourselves.

Don't do it. Don't chop off your nose just to spite your face.

As divorce attorneys, clients often ask, "How should I file my taxes? I've been separated from my spouse for over a year now. I want nothing to do with my spouse. I don't even want our names on the same piece of paper." As divorce attorneys and not accountants, this is a difficult question for us to answer. Taxes are complicated, and we don't have the knowledge that a tax professional has.

From the standpoint of divorce litigation, however, it is always wise to file your taxes in a way that recognizes the overall finances of your family unit and your children. The Court will often instruct or even order divorcing spouses to file jointly in order to minimize joint tax liability, and increase tax savings. If you file your taxes from the point of self-interest, to maximize your own personal tax refund, you may only appear selfish and contemptuous in the eyes of the court.

Filing taxes separately will often lead to unnecessary economic waste, which is never positive for either party in a divorce proceeding. Joint tax savings can be passed on to your household, your children, or your retirement accounts.

It is often difficult to do the right thing, but always be mindful of the long-term consequences. You might just find your "happily ever after," with new furniture.

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