Since Iím paying the child support, should I get to claim the children as dependents on my tax return?
First, do not forget the "equality of duty doctrine". Even though it may appear that you are providing all the child support, as the paying parent, your ex-spouse is providing child support directly to the children, by housing, feeding, and clothing them.
That said, Internal Revenue Service rules and regulations allow only one parent to claim the dependency exemption. The IRS holds that the custodial parent should be the one to take the dependency exemption. For IRS purposes the custodial parent is defined as the parent who has the children for the greater portion of the year. The custodial parent can sign a declaration allowing the noncustodial parent to take the exemption in exchange for a higher support amount.
A judge can order the custodial parent to sign this declaration, thereby assigning the dependency exemption to the noncustodial parent. If this occurs, the loss of the exemption should be entered into the calculation of child support resulting in a higher amount.