Can You Change Your Mind After Filing Jointly with a Separated Spouse?


The simple answer — No. Once an individual files a return, electing the married filing joint status, he or she may not then amend the return to file married filing separate. However, as with most tax-related questions, the answer is never that simple.

While you cannot amend a married filing joint return to a married filing separate return, you can amend a married filing separate return to a married filing joint return within three years after the filing date of the return in question. It is imperative you consult with both your divorce attorney and tax accountant prior to making a filing status election. Your divorce attorney will be able to advise you on the impact of a joint tax liability or refund and your tax accountant will be able to advise you on the tax benefits and consequences.

Each filing status has its own benefits and costs. For instance, if an individual elects to file separately, he or she will forfeit a number of major tax credits and deductions including the child tax credit and student loan interest deduction. However, benefits of filing separately include the continued disassociation with your former spouse and the individual liability for any tax liability. Filing a joint return makes both spouses responsible for the accuracy and completeness of the return and both spouses liable for any tax liability or penalties.

Prior to filing a joint return with your separated spouse, ensure you have consulted both your divorce attorney and tax accountant so you are able to make the best informed decision. When in doubt, file separately so the possibility of amending is not lost.

For more information about filing with a separated spouse, read other blogs by our team of Pittsburgh family law attorneys including Brian Vertz’s article outlining four key issues to consider and contact Pollock Begg Komar Glasser & Vertz LLC prior to filing to discuss your options.

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