My wife abandoned my kids and me mid July, 2014. For 2014 the option of "Head of Household" was not available as the IRS says that the spouse has to not have lived with you for the last 6 months of the year to be "considered unmarried", so we ended up filing as "Married Filing Jointly". For 2015, "Head of Household" is available to me, however I don't know how to tell her to file. Is she then single, or Married filing separately?

  • Do you have a legal separation decree, or are you relying on the "considered unmarried" rule only?
    – Joe
    Jan 7, 2016 at 19:53
  • Our state does not have legal separation (PA) however she did file for divorce in March of 2015
    – trex005
    Jan 7, 2016 at 20:07
  • 1
    I don't think filing is relevant - only a finalized decree of separate maintenance, or a finalized divorce, would matter.
    – Joe
    Jan 7, 2016 at 20:08

2 Answers 2


She is still married, so she cannot file as "Single" under any circumstances. If the two of you cannot agree to file as "Married Filing Jointly", then neither of you can file as "Married Filing Jointly".

Usually the only choice left for her is "Married Filing Separately". If she has a dependent in her household, she can also file as "Head of Household". If she also tries to claim the kids as her dependents, then the IRS will adjudicate which one of you has the right to claim the dependents, and, if the situation is as you describe, they will deny her claim to those dependents. She may or may not have other dependents that she can rightfully claim.


USER102008 sufficiently answered your question, but if I may provide a bit of a background for help in the future.

If this marriage is broken, then you want to finalize the divorce as soon as possible. You should be given custody of the kids, and depending upon your agreement also have the right to claim them as dependents. This will allow you to file Head of household and claim the children on your tax return.

Now she may try to do the same. If this happens, you need to write to the IRS, with a copy of your divorce decree showing you have the right to claim the children as dependents. Despite a lot of negative press the IRS is pretty responsive in this manner. Keep a copy of your letter as you may need to use it in future years.

And this goes for all manner of agreements, if it states that one party can claim little Johnny in odd years, and the other person also claims that child the IRS will resolve the dispute.

By default the one who files first wins, but one just needs to provide evidence on who the rightful person is to claim a particular dependent.

Sorry if my PTSD in this manner has shown through.

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