We separated in Sep 2016, I served her divorce papers in Feb 2017, and the divorce is still not finalized. So for all of 2017 we did not live together, and we only communicated about divorce related issues, mostly through lawyers. Fully separated but technically married for all of 2017. No kids.

And I make much more than my ex, and she will agree or co-operate with a filing status of "married filing jointly". So I must file as "married filing singly" right?

Me being self employed, I think I will need to itemize deductions for business expenses on my Schedule C. Turbotax is telling me that when my ex files as "married filing jointly" she will have to itemize then as well. But she works retail on a simple W2. I'm worried this will cause her more tax burden if she cannot take the standard deduction.

How can the IRS make our taxes correlate with each other when my ex won't even speak to me and I haven't seen her in over a year?

Do I have this right? This seems crazy.


2 Answers 2


You are confusing a few things.

There are two filing options for married couples: “Married Filing Jointly” and “Married Filing Separately.” (There is a third filing option called “Head of Household” that one of you might use if there are children involved.)

Married Filing Jointly (MFJ) means that you file one (and only one) tax return for the both of you.

Married Filing Separately (MFS) means that, although you are married, you are each sending in your own return.

So, first, you need to be clear about your filing status. Either you both work together to file one return (MFJ), or you each file your own return (MFS). If you aren’t giving your tax documents to your wife and she isn’t giving you hers, then you both need to file Married Filing Separately.

When you file MFS, there are a few things you still need to coordinate between the two of you. If there are children/dependents involved, you will need to come to an agreement about who is claiming them on their tax return, as only one of you can claim each dependent.

And, related to your question, if one of you decides to itemize deductions as MFS, the other cannot take the standard deduction; he or she would be required to also itemize, even if it results in a lower deduction amount than the standard.

As mentioned above, there is a third filing option called Head of Household that can possibly be utilized by one of you if there is a child involved and all the requirements are met. One of the features of Head of Household is that it allows a standard deduction even if you are technically married to a spouse that has itemized.

For more information about taxes while you are separated, see IRS Publication 504, Divorced or Separated Individuals.

Finally, as Glen Pierce and Hart CO have mentioned in the comments, the term “itemized deductions” refers specifically to the deductions that are listed on Schedule A. It has nothing to do with your business’s Schedule C. So you still need to determine whether or not you will be taking the standard deduction or if you will be itemizing on Schedule A.


How can the IRS make our taxes correlate with each other when my ex won't even speak to me and I haven't seen her in over a year?

Go through your lawyers. (That's what they get paid for.)

Do I have this right?

Yes: you both must either itemize or take the standard deductions. As for getting her to itemize... well, that's beyond the scope of this site.

  • 1
    Re "what they get paid for", wouldn't going through the lawyers just rack up more billable hours? Which is likely to more than wipe any small profit the OP would get from itemizing vs standard deduction.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 20:24
  • @jamesqf that's the bitch about getting divorced: it's expensive.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 21:12

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