So, it turns out I've been married for the past two years. Help?
March 26, 2015 12:24 PM   Subscribe

I found out today that the divorce I filed two years ago did not, in fact, go through. However, I've been filing my taxes as a single person during that period. What should I do? Are there other legal issues I may not be considering? Neither of us want and did not want alimony and we have no children, so that's not a concern. Thanks.
posted by Fister Roboto to Law & Government (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What do you mean "did not go through"? Did you have a judgment of divorce in hand but it turned out not to have been served, or did your lawyer tell you the court had issued a judgment and the court really didn't? Or something else?
posted by holborne at 12:35 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

There were some omissions in the paperwork that I turned in (I tried to do it myself), so the judge wants a whole new Decree of Divorce.
posted by Fister Roboto at 12:40 PM on March 26, 2015

You can file an amended federal return. I did that one year during my divorce. I did so after talking to a tax professional, having previously filed it myself. I suggest you also talk to a tax professional about how important it is for you to file an amended return and whether or not that will impact the numbers. (I amended mine because it upped my refund by about a thousand dollars, which was a real big deal to me at the time.)

You might also want to talk to any insurance companies with whom you have coverage and explain the situation.

One of the things I ran into during my protracted divorce was that at some point I called an insurance company and it happened to come up in conversation that I was legally separated and not living with my spouse but not yet divorced and they needed to reclassify my coverage in some way. I don't recall the details. I think this was car insurance.
posted by Michele in California at 12:58 PM on March 26, 2015

Well, you could certainly do worse than giving the IRS a call. If you have the means to do so, gather all of your and your (STBX) spouse's return paperwork from the past two years ASAP and bring the whole lot to a CPA. I've heard good things about Tennessen on the East Side; Nelson Tax Accounting in Bay View gives free consultations.

The rest of this comment comes with the requisite AskMe caveats: I am not an accountant, I am not your accountant, I am not and have never been married; my only experience in this realm is drawn exclusively from the drudgery of doing my own taxes (filing as single) for the past 17 years.

Even if you aren't divorced, are you legally separated? In the eyes of the feds, single filing status "generally applies to anyone who is unmarried, divorced or legally separated according to state law." (Accent mine.) The IRS definition of an "unmarried person" is here; ultimately, it will come down to state law.

If you are indeed legally separated, you might not even have anything to worry about, but you should definitely call an accountant to make sure. If you're just straight-up still married altogether, and you've both been filing as single for the past two years, at minimum, you'll both need to amend your previous returns (via 1040X) and resubmit them, I'm guessing as married filing separately. (More info on filing status here.) Amendments can be filed within three years of the original filing date per IRS Tax Topic 308.

Good luck!
posted by divined by radio at 1:08 PM on March 26, 2015 [7 favorites]

I'd look into whether it's legal to refile jointly for those years, there are pretty good tax breaks. If and only if you're on good speaking terms with your ex and you trust them to be honest about their income, etc.

I know a good CPA out in Brookfield who dealt with a morass of complicated tax issues when I was still married - memail me if you want her contact info.
posted by desjardins at 1:54 PM on March 26, 2015

Oh boy - if you got married/divorced in a community property state, any debts they took out are now half yours. Get a copy of your credit report. Wisconsin is a community property state! I don't know how that may impacted by the fact that you live here now, or whether your ex does/doesn't live here.

I also know the name of a good family law attorney (downtown Milwaukee) - memail me for that too. She gives a free consultation and I went with her specifically because she was knowledgeable about tax issues wrt divorce.
posted by desjardins at 1:58 PM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Could you ask the judge about making it retroactive to the original filing date?
posted by sexyrobot at 2:02 PM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

She lives in Colorado. We lived in Wyoming when we were getting divorced. I'm on really good terms with her, so that's not an issue. I'm also very confident that she hasn't run up any debt and even if she had, she wouldn't try to hold me responsible. In fact, we are both much more financially healthy than we were when we initially divorced, or thought we did.
posted by Fister Roboto at 2:05 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

You might not need to file as married just because you are married. There are specific rules about legal separation that, IIRC, are linked to your state of residence. Depending how much money is involved and whether it's advantageous for you to file as single, you should consult a family lawyer in the state(s) you resided in during the years you filed.

I'm not a lawyer, but I have been through a similar quandary as a separated person who wanted to file as single.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:48 PM on March 26, 2015

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