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My understanding is that the parent whom the child lives with is the only one who can claim EIC (if eligible for EIC) - I'll assume the child lives with the mother. I know you didn't ask about EIC but I thought I'd throw that in as it sometimes gets confused with dependency.

As for dependency: Either parent should be able to claim the child. If the father is to claim the child, the mother needs to give the father permission to claim the child as a dependent in a Non-custodial Parent - type form. I can't seem to recall the correct name of the form but the father should get one with the mother's permission to claim the child. I believe the parents can also take turns in claiming the child - such as claiming the child every other year (please correct me if anyone knows otherwise).

Note: If eligible (low-income and child lives with mother), the mother can still claim EIC even if the father claims the dependancy of the child.
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