Austin couples that are newly separated or going through a divorce have enough on their plate without having to worry about how their new marital status will affect their taxes. Navigating these new waters can be tricky, as many have most likely not had to consider these issues previously. It can be complicated from the onset, as couples try to figure out whether they are married.

It seems like a simple enough question-are you married or single? However, the answer is not always straightforward, as IRS rules dictate that one is still married if their divorce is not finalized by December 31 of that year, even if the divorce papers have been filed. Similarly, if the divorce decree was issued on the last day of the year, taxes must be filed as if the person was unmarried the whole year. This does not change even if the couple is living separately-for the IRS, the court decree is the determinant.

Couples can decide to avail the option of filing taxes jointly, even if they don’t live together. For some, this can be beneficial as higher deductions may be available. This, however, depends on the party’s incomes. It’s also important to keep in mind that filing jointly makes both people jointly and severally liable for taxes due, even if the income was earned by one spouse. Additionally, an innocent spouse can be on the hook for a crooked spouse’s fraudulent income tax returns.

How one ends up filing their taxes during the year their divorce is getting finalized is a combination of laws and circumstances. If someone is struggling with their former or soon to be former spouse’s income tax liability and needs to discuss collection defenses or is trying to understand the best filing route to take, it might make sense to consult an experienced attorney for guidance.