What should divorcing spouses consider in selecting a tax filing status.

In general, the two considerations are 1) tax consequences, which include incomes and deductions of the spouses, number of dependents, credits, tax rates and the amount tax paid to avoid penalties, and 2) legal liabilities, particularly those associated with a married filing jointly, which include joint and several liability.

Even in intact marriages, the wife may have far less understanding about the finances of her marriage, particularly if her husband is engaged in illegal activities. While she may enjoy some protection under what is called the Innocent Spouse Rule, at least at the onset of I.R.S. she is fully responsible for the income tax return she signs.