Regardless of when you file for divorce, your tax status—whether you can file jointly with your spouse or must file individually—depends on your marital status as of the last day of the year (December 31). For example, if you have filed for divorce but are still legally married on December 31, you can file a joint return with your spouse for that year; if, however, you have officially divorced as of December 31, you can no longer file jointly for that year. Wherever you are in the separation process, there are a few things to keep in mind to relative to filing your taxes.
Filing returns jointly usually provides a benefit to spouses, as it usually leads to a lower tax liability. For this reason, spouses often file jointly (even if they are going through the divorce process). However, according to the Internal Revenue Service, both spouses are jointly and individually responsible for taxes, penalties, and interest due on any joint tax return filed for a year that ended before your divorce. This rule applies even if a divorce agreement states that a former spouse is responsible for these amounts (in other words, the IRS is not bound by an agreement entered in a family court). However, a spouse may be able to file for relief from IRS liability. There are three types of relief: