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  1. #1
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    Default Can a Divorce Judge Order a Person to File Federal Taxes in a "Joint" Status

    My question involves a marriage in the state of: Arizona
    Can a divorce judge order either party to file their state or federal income taxes using a filing status chosen by the opposing lawyer or judge? For example, Married, Head of Household" "Single" "Married, Filing Separately" I understand splitting returns and liabilities, but directing how taxes are to be filed seems like a stretch of a judge's authority.
    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Can a Divorce Judge Order a Person to File Federal Taxes in a "Joint" Status

    Quote Quoting Ranger911
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    Can a divorce judge order either party to file their state or federal income taxes using a filing status chosen by the opposing lawyer or judge?
    Yes, he can.

    And if he already did it, then it should be obvious that he can do it.

    You refuse at your peril.

    Quote Quoting Ranger911
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    directing how taxes are to be filed seems like a stretch of a judge's authority.
    If you think so you immediately file an appeal to the Court of Appeals and somehow convince the appellate judges that your judge exceeded his authority.

    You probably have no idea what it takes to file an appeal to the Court of Appeals. I do. I did it. It will cost you many thousands more than the cost of complying with his order.

    Discuss your options with your lawyer.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Can a Divorce Judge Order a Person to File Federal Taxes in a "Joint" Status

    Well, this is an issue of a friend who is self-representing in court. There certainly seems to be a bias toward those who can afford an attorney, and those who don't have that option. You're right, I don't have any idea how this works, that's why I'm on this website. The question boils down not to appealing a decision, but does a county judge have the authority to dictate how federal income taxes should be completed and filed in the first place, not just in divorce cases, but to anyone under any circumstances.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Can a Divorce Judge Order a Person to File Federal Taxes in a "Joint" Status

    Quote Quoting Ranger911
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    Well, this is an issue of a friend who is self-representing in court. There certainly seems to be a bias toward those who can afford an attorney, and those who don't have that option. You're right, I don't have any idea how this works, that's why I'm on this website. The question boils down not to appealing a decision, but does a county judge have the authority to dictate how federal income taxes should be completed and filed in the first place, not just in divorce cases, but to anyone under any circumstances.
    Adjuster Jack gave you an wrong answer. A state court judge cannot force someone to file a federal tax return against their will. Your choice was to file a joint return, or a married filing separate return. Nine times out of ten a married filing joint return produces a better result.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Can a Divorce Judge Order a Person to File Federal Taxes in a "Joint" Status

    Quote Quoting llworking
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    A state court judge cannot force someone to file a federal tax return against their will.
    As a general statement of law that is not correct. It is true for some states but not others. For example, you'd be correct for a divorce case in Nebraska, as the Supreme Court of that state held that "For all of these reasons, we hold that a trial court does not have discretion to compel parties seeking marital dissolution to file a joint income tax return." Bock v. Dalbey, 283 Neb. 994, 1004, 815 N.W.2d 530, 538 (2012).

    But NJ courts have a different rule:

    As a result, we hold that trial courts in New Jersey have discretionary authority to compel parties in divorce proceedings to file joint tax returns. Whether it is appropriate to compel that result will depend upon the facts presented in any given case. In general, we believe trial courts should avoid compelling parties to execute joint tax returns because of the potential liability to which the parties would be exposed, and because there generally exists a means by which to compensate the parties for the adverse tax consequences of filing separately.

    Under the circumstances presented in this case, we perceive no abuse of discretion on the part of the trial court in compelling the parties to file joint returns.

    Bursztyn v. Bursztyn, 379 N.J. Super. 385, 398, 879 A.2d 129, 137 (App. Div. 2005).

    Iowa, too, allows the courts to order the spouses to file a joint return:

    Maura contends the district court acted inequitably in requiring her to cooperate with Brian in filing a joint tax return for the 2012 taxable year. We disagree.

    The district court was authorized to consider the tax consequences to the parties. See Iowa Code 598.21A(g). Here, the consequences were significant. The district court found the parties filed separate *861 income tax returns for the 2012 tax year but if they amended the returns to file jointly, “they could save approximately $16,000.” This finding is supported by the record.

    Significantly, the Iowa Supreme Court has affirmed the concept that “neither party should have sole discretion with regard to tax filings after separation because the filings might adversely affect the other party.”

    In re Marriage of Witherly, 867 N.W.2d 856, 860–61 (Iowa Ct. App. 2015).

    In short, the states are split on whether a court may order parties to a divorce to file joint income tax returns for years in which they are eligible to do so. So there isn't a one size fits all statement of the law here that will apply to all states.

    And what about Arizona, where the OP is located? I did not find any appellate court decisions that directly address the issue, though my research was not completely exhaustive. But I did find at least one appellate case in which the court noted that the trial court had ordered the couple to file joint returns. "As discussed, the Decree directed Husband to pay Wife $4,100 no later than January 31, 2012. It also required the parties to file joint federal and state income tax returns for 2010." Freeman v. Freeman, No. 1 CA-CV 12-0356, 2013 WL 1932912, at *3 (Ariz. Ct. App. May 9, 2013). So apparently such orders are issued in that state. As to what the Arizona appellate courts would say if squarely presented with the question as to the trial court's authority to do that, I can't say. The courts could go either way. A family law attorney in that state would have a better grasp of which way that state's courts would go, and I suggest the OP consult a family law attorney on the matter to get a feel for how that might go and, should the OP want to contest the matter, what that will cost.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Can a Divorce Judge Order a Person to File Federal Taxes in a "Joint" Status

    To TM, damn you're good.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Can a Divorce Judge Order a Person to File Federal Taxes in a "Joint" Status

    Quote Quoting RJR
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    To TM, damn you're good.
    What am I, chopped liver? I got it right.


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Can a Divorce Judge Order a Person to File Federal Taxes in a "Joint" Status

    Quote Quoting Taxing Matters
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    As a general statement of law that is not correct. It is true for some states but not others. For example, you'd be correct for a divorce case in Nebraska, as the Supreme Court of that state held that "For all of these reasons, we hold that a trial court does not have discretion to compel parties seeking marital dissolution to file a joint income tax return." Bock v. Dalbey, 283 Neb. 994, 1004, 815 N.W.2d 530, 538 (2012).

    But NJ courts have a different rule:

    As a result, we hold that trial courts in New Jersey have discretionary authority to compel parties in divorce proceedings to file joint tax returns. Whether it is appropriate to compel that result will depend upon the facts presented in any given case. In general, we believe trial courts should avoid compelling parties to execute joint tax returns because of the potential liability to which the parties would be exposed, and because there generally exists a means by which to compensate the parties for the adverse tax consequences of filing separately.

    Under the circumstances presented in this case, we perceive no abuse of discretion on the part of the trial court in compelling the parties to file joint returns.

    Bursztyn v. Bursztyn, 379 N.J. Super. 385, 398, 879 A.2d 129, 137 (App. Div. 2005).

    Iowa, too, allows the courts to order the spouses to file a joint return:

    Maura contends the district court acted inequitably in requiring her to cooperate with Brian in filing a joint tax return for the 2012 taxable year. We disagree.

    The district court was authorized to consider the tax consequences to the parties. See Iowa Code 598.21A(g). Here, the consequences were significant. The district court found the parties filed separate *861 income tax returns for the 2012 tax year but if they amended the returns to file jointly, “they could save approximately $16,000.” This finding is supported by the record.

    Significantly, the Iowa Supreme Court has affirmed the concept that “neither party should have sole discretion with regard to tax filings after separation because the filings might adversely affect the other party.”

    In re Marriage of Witherly, 867 N.W.2d 856, 860–61 (Iowa Ct. App. 2015).

    In short, the states are split on whether a court may order parties to a divorce to file joint income tax returns for years in which they are eligible to do so. So there isn't a one size fits all statement of the law here that will apply to all states.

    And what about Arizona, where the OP is located? I did not find any appellate court decisions that directly address the issue, though my research was not completely exhaustive. But I did find at least one appellate case in which the court noted that the trial court had ordered the couple to file joint returns. "As discussed, the Decree directed Husband to pay Wife $4,100 no later than January 31, 2012. It also required the parties to file joint federal and state income tax returns for 2010." Freeman v. Freeman, No. 1 CA-CV 12-0356, 2013 WL 1932912, at *3 (Ariz. Ct. App. May 9, 2013). So apparently such orders are issued in that state. As to what the Arizona appellate courts would say if squarely presented with the question as to the trial court's authority to do that, I can't say. The courts could go either way. A family law attorney in that state would have a better grasp of which way that state's courts would go, and I suggest the OP consult a family law attorney on the matter to get a feel for how that might go and, should the OP want to contest the matter, what that will cost.
    Despite the case law that you have presented here, I disagree. Federal taxes are a federal, not a state issue and states have no authority to compel anyone regarding anything that has to do with federal taxes. That is a constitutional issue. The fact that some state's upper courts have chosen to rule differently on the issue does not change that.

    Just like the fact that the feds cannot rule on issues that are reserved for the states the state cannot rule on issues that are under federal jurisdiction. Again, the fact that some of them have, does NOT overcome that.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Can a Divorce Judge Order a Person to File Federal Taxes in a "Joint" Status

    Thank you everyone! Wish we had smart, talented and professional attorneys like you in this small Arizona county. Best to all
    Ranger911

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Can a Divorce Judge Order a Person to File Federal Taxes in a "Joint" Status

    Quote Quoting llworking
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    Despite the case law that you have presented here, I disagree. Federal taxes are a federal, not a state issue and states have no authority to compel anyone regarding anything that has to do with federal taxes. That is a constitutional issue. The fact that some state's upper courts have chosen to rule differently on the issue does not change that.

    Just like the fact that the feds cannot rule on issues that are reserved for the states the state cannot rule on issues that are under federal jurisdiction. Again, the fact that some of them have, does NOT overcome that.
    You seem to be saying that reality is not reality. How does that work?

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