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Location of divorce may affect property division

For most couples living in Tennessee who are seeking a divorce, the issues in the divorce – child support and custody, alimony and property division – will be decided by the courts in this state. But some wealthy couples have more than one residence, and this fact can complicate a judicial resolution of these issues. The pending divorce of Tennessee-born comedian Ralphie May provides a classic example of this problem.

May’s wife, Lahna Turner, and their children are living in Los Angeles, while he claims that a house in Nashville is the family’s home. Consequently, May is arguing that the divorce should be heard by a Tennessee court. His wife, however, claims that the Nashville house is a vacation home and that the family resides in California. What difference does this make? When it comes to dividing the couple’s assets, the answer is “a lot.”

Tennessee is an “equitable distribution” state. The court can distribute the couple’s property in any manner that it deems equitable. California is a community property state, which means that all property and assets acquired by the couple during their marriage must be divided equally between them, regardless of who earned the money used to acquire the assets. In other words, Turner will probably obtain a greater share of the couple’s assets under California law, where May will do better if the case is heard in Tennessee.

If a couple maintains residences in two or more states, the determination of which state has jurisdiction over their divorce can become complex. Moreover, the question of which state is more favorable to the interests of a particular spouse can require extended research and analysis. Anyone who is in a high asset marriage and is contemplating a divorce should consult an experienced family lawyer regarding these issues. A knowledgeable attorney can provide the legal research and financial investigation necessary to determine the most favorable jurisdiction in matters of property division.