Your marital status on Dec. 31 of the year you are filing tax returns for determines your filing status.
This means taxpayers who are not divorced on that date must continue to use one of the filing statuses for married couples, which are married filing jointly and married filing separately. In some cases, married taxpayers may be able to use the head of household filing status even without being divorced if you have lived apart from your spouse for more than half of the year and provided more than half of the maintenance for your household, which includes son, daughter, stepson, stepdaughter, or eligible foster child.
Being divorced could qualify you to file as head of household if you also meet these two conditions:
- You paid more than half the cost of keeping up your home.
- You had a qualifying dependent living in your home more than half of the year.
Divorced taxpayers who do not qualify to use the head of household status will generally file as single.