Internal Revenue Service United States Department of the Treasury
Level Basic Advanced Military International

Personal Exemptions

Personal Exemption Rules

Spouses (continued)

Divorced, Separated, and Common Law

Taxpayers who are divorced or legally separated at the end of the tax year cannot claim their (former) spouse as an exemption.

The rules for common-law marriages vary by state. A common-law marriage is recognized for federal tax purposes if it is recognized by the state where the taxpayers currently live or in the state where the common-law marriage began, and the marriage has not been legally dissolved, such as by death or divorce. Legal advice may be necessary to determine if a common-law marriage exists.


Filing a joint return for a common-law marriage applies to the federal return only. Check state or local law before completing a state return.

Marital Status and Household Information section of intake and interview sheet, checkboxes for Single, Married, Divorced or Legally Separated.