Does your minor child need to be listed as a dependent on your tax return for you to collect child benefits?

Published: July 6, 2021

Full question: If you file and start collecting Social Security, and you have a minor child, must they be listed as a deduction on your tax return for you to collect child benefit as well? I ask because I have joint custody of our 11-year-old son, but my ex-wife lists him as a dependent on her tax return.


It is difficult to answer your question with certainty without knowing your custody agreement.

Some divorced parents share the tax deductions, credits, expenses, etc. in a structured way as specified in the agreement.

Regardless, to claim Head of Household and therefore claim a child as dependent, the IRS requires you to meet all of the following requirements:
• you are unmarried on the last day of the year (December 31)
• you paid more than half of the expenses to keep up your home during the year, and
• a qualifying person (dependent) lived with you for more than half the year.

This last requirement relates to who has the child “in care” for the purposes of caring for a minor child under Social Security law.

I recommend that you consult with an attorney and tax professional to make sure you and your ex-spouse are claiming deductions and payments for your son correctly.

Best wishes,

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