In many cases a couple is “separated” but with no decree of divorce or separate maintenance. In that case, they are still considered to be married in the eyes of state law. And the tax law follows state law on this matter. The couple can still file “jointly,” but this may be impractical in some cases depending on the nature of the separation.
If the following tests are met, you can file as “single” even though you’re married (i.e, you will not have to use the “married filing separately” filing status):
- (1) You maintain as your home a household which for more than half the year is the principal living place of a child of yours whom you can claim as your dependent (or could have claimed as your dependent except that you signed away your right to the exemption to the child’s other parent).
- (2) Your furnish more than half of the cost of maintaining the home. This includes all house-related costs, plus the cost of food consumed in the home.
- (3) Your spouse cannot have been a member of the household for the last six months of the year.
Note that if each of the separated spouses meets these tests (e.g., they have more than one child and each has custody of a child), they can both qualify to file singly. If only one meets the tests, then the other, nonqualifying, spouse will have to file as married filing separately.
Please let us know if you have any other questions related to this matter or if I can be of assistance in any way regarding your tax situation.