When April 15th rolls around, the entire nation knows that it’s tax time again. For those who have divorced within the last year, you’ll need to take into account your new status when filing. Keep in mind that your filing status will depend on whether you were still married at the end of the prior year. For tax purposes, you are only “unmarried” if you received a final decree of divorce or separation by December 31st.
However, if you were married as of December 31st, you still have a choice as to your filing status. You can either file a single tax return with your spouse, under “Married Filing Jointly,” or you can each file a separate return under “Married Filing Separately.”
Because you typically qualify for more tax credits on a joint return, you’ll likely pay lower taxes if you choose this option. However, a separate return offers more protection because it separates you from any responsibility for your spouse’s taxes. On a joint return, if your spouse doesn’t pay his or her taxes the IRS can demand the difference from you, whereas on a separately filed tax return you will not have to pay for your spouse’s tax liability.