If a spouse was making fraudulent claims on joint tax returns, can the innocent spouse be protected from prosecution?

If a stay-at-home spouse signed joint tax returns during the marriage and it turned out the moneyed spouse was under reporting income or making fraudulent claims, can the innocent spouse be protected from prosecution?

By Sean Sullivan
August 16, 2016

Possibly. There are some protections for so called innocent spouses who are truly ignorant of the other spouse's fraudulent tax filings, but to some degree these are subject to the federal tax laws and the discretion of the IRS.

In my practice as a divorce attorney, I make it a standard practice when I draft a marital settlement agreement that I build in some type of tax protection for the innocent spouse if this occurs and is discovered after they've been divorced. This way the person has some type of protection already built into the marital settlement agreement that would inflate him or her from liability. And the other spouse would have agreed that any implications or any tax penalties that would be levied against the spouse who was guilty against the fraud would not be held against the spouse who was unknowing or innocent of this.

Sean Sullivan is a family lawyer practicing in the Elmhurst, Illinois area at the law offices of Laura M Urbik Kern specializing in child custody and dissolution in divorce. Visit his website, www.laurakern.com and Divorce Magazine profile.

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August 16, 2016

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