Generally, only the custodial parent can claim a child as a dependent, states the IRS. For parents who do not have custody arrangements, the parent who provides the majority of financial support for the child usually claims the child as a dependent for tax purposes, explains Nolo. Claiming a child as a dependent also allows the parent to file for the relevant child tax credits.
The non-custodial parent can gain the ability to claim his child as a dependent by filing Form 8332, notes the IRS. This form requires signatures from both the custodial and non-custodial parents to change the child's dependent status. In rare cases, the IRS allows the non-custodial parent to claim children as dependents without Form 8332 if the parents have a separation agreement that specifically grants the non-custodial parent the dependent exemption. The non-custodial parent must provide this information along with his tax return.
Children can only qualify as dependents if they are related to the taxpayer through blood, adoption or other legal measures, explains TurboTax. If the government recognizes the child as permanently disabled, the parent can claim the child as a dependent for the child's whole life. Otherwise, the parent can only claim children as dependents until they reach age 19, or age 24 for children who are full-time students.