Starting with tax year 2018 the dependency exemption does not exist anymore. Tax law, in an effort to simplify returns has eliminated the dependency deduction. Instead there is a Child Tax Credit which can be worth up to $2,000.00 per qualifying child.
The IRS has not published publication 504 (Divorced or Separated Individuals) for 2018. As a result, it is not clear if parties may agree which parent will receive the Child Tax Credit. While experts expect that the Child Tax Credit may be allocated from one parent to the other by agreement, it is possible that only the custodial parent will be able to receive the credit.
The IRS may allow parties to specify which parent will be able to claim the credit. If that happens then existing judgments need to be examined to determine if the language about dependency exemptions may apply to tax credits. If not, then parties may need to file a modification to have the Child Tax Credit treated as the Child Dependency Exemption had been treated. A modification may be necessary for obtaining cooperation of the other parent or it may be a requirement under tax law for allocation of the credit. A modification by agreement of both parties can qualify for a simplified procedure as a joint petition to modify.
Interpretation of your divorce judgment, modification of a prior judgment, and understanding the Child Tax Credit may require the assistance of a family law attorney.