A special rule allows a married person who is living apart (but not necessarily legally separated) from his or her spouse, and who is caring for a dependent child, to be treated as single and eligible to use the head of household filing status. In the absence of this rule, these individuals would probably have to file as "married filing separately," a much less advantageous status.
In order to take advantage of this special rule, all of the following conditions must be met:
- You must file a separate tax return.
- You must pay more than half of the cost of maintaining your household for the year.
- Your spouse must not have been a member of your household during the last six months of the tax year.
- Your household must, for more than six months of the year, have been the principal home of at least one of your dependent children. "Children" includes your legally adopted children and foster children; however, if the child is a foster child, he or she must reside in your household for the entire year.