Karen Covy, a divorce lawyer in Chicago, answers:
Whether you can file a joint tax return with your spouse depends upon whether you were still married on December 31. If you were married on December 31, you can file a joint tax return; if you were divorced on or before December 31, you can’t.
If you are ready to finalize your divorce near the end of the year, the smartest thing you can do is consult with your accountant before you finalize your divorce. If you will get a tax benefit by filing joint tax returns, then it may make sense to get all of your paperwork ready, but to hold off on going to court and finalizing your divorce until January. On the other hand, if you will do better by filing separate tax returns, then you will want to push to get divorced by December 31.
Karen Covy is a lawyer, mediator, educator and the author of When Happily Ever After Ends: How to Survive Your Divorce Emotionally, Financially, and Legally.