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Filing Status

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Level 2

I am confused by the IRS instructions for definition of a single individual. It states if you are legally separated under your state law under a decree of divorce or separate maintenance. But then it says if the divorce is not final as of the end of 2019 you cannot check single. The two statements seem to contradict each other. In the past I always used single as the filing status rather than married filing separately if the couple was legally separated. I even used the IRS interactive filing status tool and it came up as single. It seems it all comes down too the definition of legally separated. Any advice?

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4 Replies 4
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Level 15
Level 15

Legal Separation is a status like Divorced.

You have to go through the courts again to be Divorced once youve become Legally Separated.

So are they legally separated by Court order? 

Or are they in they separated and in the middle of a divorce?


♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥Lisa♥¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪
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Level 15

I have been told by divorce lawyers that "legal separation" is very rare. FWIW I've seen it once in 30 years. And I've had many clients who were separated. As Lisa said this is a legal status with legal paperwork.


ex-AllStar
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Level 15
Level 15
My daughter and her ex have been legally separated for a few years....thats the only way she could stay on his health insurance.
He recently filed for divorce..I think hes planning on getting remarried.

♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥Lisa♥¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪
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Level 11

There are states like California where the divorce does not become final until a certain period of time after the decree.  I think the delay also applies to decrees of separate maintenance -- and the IRS language is directed at situations like that.  I think I've seen only one "legal separation" decree in 45 years -- in a situation where the spouses wanted to keep health insurance coverage and survivor benefits from an employer.