Your marital status on the last day of the tax year determines your income tax filing status for that tax year. If you have a final decree of divorce as of December 31, you can file as single, or you may qualify for head of household status. However, if your divorce is not yet final as of December 31, you can file jointly or married filing separately.
Usually filing jointly results in a lower tax. However, filing jointly will make you responsible for your spouses tax liability including penalties and interest, since a husband and wife have "joint and several liability" on a joint return.
To qualify as head of household you must meet the following requirements: 1) You paid more than half the cost of keeping up your home during the year; 2) your home was the main residence for you and your children for half of the year; and 3) your spouse hasnt lived in your home for six months.
Source: "How Divorce Affects Income Tax Filing Status" by Dan Nunley, published at his Oklahoma Family Law Blog.
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