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Billy Ray Cyrus Divorce: Where Will Case Be Heard?

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By Betty Wang, JD on June 14, 2013 1:34 PM

Miley Cyrus' parents, Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus, are divorcing after 19 years of marriage. The couple almost split up in 2011, according to E! News, but later reconciled. Now, it looks as though things have gotten rocky again.

Tish, 46, checked the box to select "irreconcilable differences" as her reason for wanting to divorce Billy Ray, 51, according to papers filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. But Billy Ray has apparently filed for divorce in Nashville, Tennessee.

Since they've reportedly filed in different states, what happens now?

Divorcing in Different States

It's not too uncommon for a couple to live in different states, especially toward the end of their marriage. A divorce petition can generally be filed in the state where each respective spouse lives, as long as the spouse fulfills that state's requirements.

When this happens, however, some legal issues may arise, as divorce laws -- along with laws about child custody and support -- differ by state. (The Cyruses have five children, including Disney star and singer Miley, who is 20. Only one child, 13-year-old Noah, is still a minor.)

Some factors that may come into play when filing for divorce in separate states may include:

  • Residency requirements. The spouse who files for divorce must also be a resident of the state they file in. While residency requirements for each state vary, they generally involve the person living there for a certain period of time.
  • Jurisdiction. In addition to meeting residency requirements, the court must also have jurisdiction over the parties. Jurisdiction involves a number of factors, but the easiest way to achieve it is by serving the party in the state, or for the other party to consent to the state chosen.
  • Who filed or served first? Under some states' laws, the determination as to where a divorce case will be heard is based on which party filed for divorce first, or which party served divorce paperwork on the other spouse first.

'Achy-Breaky' Legal Questions

In Billy Ray Cyrus' divorce, it appears that both he and Tish filed paperwork separately on June 13, according to documents obtained by E! News. It's not clear if either spouse has yet been properly served with the other spouse's divorce papers.

Another question is whether either Billy Ray or Tish Cyrus meets the residency or jurisdictional requirements in the state where each party filed for divorce. If not, their case may be tossed out.

But it's also possible that both cases may proceed, at least for now, until each party's divorce lawyer steps in to argue that one state or the other is more proper.

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