The first tax-return item a taxpayer encounters is the choice of how to file. For many couples raising kids together, this is easy. The married-filing-jointly option offers a larger standard deduction and allows some tax breaks that are denied unmarried filers.
If, however, you are raising children alone, don't shortchange yourself by choosing the wrong status. You can file as a head of household if, for more than six months, you provided over half the cost of keeping up a home for yourself and your kids. Tax rates and the standard deduction for head-of-household filers are more favorable than those for the single or married-filing-separately categories.
Parents who have lost spouses also have a choice. You may file as a qualifying widow or widower with a dependent child for two years after the year your husband or wife died. This status gives you the same filing consideration afforded married filers.