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Question: I have a girlfriend who was divorced on 9/3/98. Everything I know suggests that she can only file separately. However, she and her ex went to see a financial advisor prior to their divorce (it was very amicable, believe it or not!) and he stated categorically that they should file jointly for 98, because they were getting divorced so late in the year! Is he totally out of his gourd or does someone know how this might be possible?

First Post I looked in the Tax FAQ, and you are both wrong. What matters is the marital status on December 31. She was either Single, or maybe Head of Household if there are children involved.

The financial advisor may be right. What you and I might consider a divorce may not be the same as the legal definition. In my case a judge declared us divorced and able to remarry (if we wished) years before the final decree was officially finished.

You can find details on this and many other divorce matters in IRS Publication 504 Divorced or Separated Individuals. You can access Pub 504 on the IRS website at or most of the IRS forms and publications at

According to the IRS you have to file single if on the last day of the tax year you have obtained a final decree of divorce or separate maintenance or a decree of annulment. You have to go with the local state law on what's considered final.

It pays to do your own research in a divorce. The lawyers and advisors do not think of everything. (Case in point, you are wise to question the financial advisor's advice.)

Many years ago, we tried to split things evenly dollar for dollar. My ex-wife's lawyer contested my suggestions for an even split. She insisted my ex-love take all the good investments and leave me with the dogs.

I let her win. She ended up with all the capital gains and I ended up with all the tax credits and deductions.

The price of ignorance was paid each April 15 for many years.

I am not a lawyer or a CPA and I don't even play one on TV, but my suspicion would be that income earned up to the divorce would be split 50-50 and after that they are on their own.

Not always, although that would seem fair.

It all depends on the divorce decree or separation decree. Cases to the point are alimony and child support (which are each treated differently for tax purposes).

How the pre-divorce earnings are split for divorce purposes and tax purposes are two different animals. Who receives the money and who pays the taxes are seperate issues. Most lawyers miss that point.

Gary the PhotoPhool

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