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Custody agreements made today may not work 5 or 10 years later

Possible tax consequences are a conversation that certainly may come up in a family law dispute. Conversely, an agreement reached in a family court has the potential to be used in a dispute in a tax court, as was recently the case for the father of a young boy. It was his conciliation agreement, a type of child custody arrangement available in his jurisdiction, that was the basis of a dispute over unpaid tax liability.

In this case, the father had claimed his son as a dependent on his 2010 and 2011 returns. Taxing authorities determined that this was in error due to the amount of time he was designated in the conciliation agreement. In court, the man argued that despite the paper agreement, he had co-parented his child for a much greater percentage of time during those two years.

The man won his argument, but tax issues aren’t why this case caught the attention of our Columbus divorce law blog.

There is an underlying issue in this case that applies to so many child custody situations; that is that our lives are constantly changing. Even the most detailed, well-thought-out plan might not work several years down the road. In this case, the father took on more of the day-to-day custodial responsibilities in order to help his child make it to all of his football and basketball training sessions and events.

As a child grows, his or her needs will change. A post-divorce modification can address these changes. It might be easy for parents that get along to make verbal agreements, however, it is important to note that these arrangements are not enforceable in court. Those that find issue with their current child custody arrangement should get an attorney involved -- even in amicable situations.

Source: Forbes, “Football Dad Beats IRS In Tax Court,” April 25, 2014

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