Country star and father of superstar Miley Cyrus filed for divorce last week based upon irreconcilable differences. Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus were married for 17 years and have presented themselves to the world as a tight knit family and devoted parents of five children. The media was surprised by the separation of this couple who appeared to be a stable family. In Miles to Go, the autobiography of Miley Cyrus, Miley described her parents as preferring family time over partying or entertaining.
Interestingly, the two older children in the Cyrus clan were Tish’s children from a previous marriage who were later adopted by Billy Ray. This raises an interesting scenario regarding the financial responsibility to a child who is only the biological child of one parent.
Clients of Keil & Siegel LLP regularly inquire about the circumstances where one party enters a relationship with a child from a former partner. The couple often remains together for several years, has other children together and forms a family unit. The child refers to both parties as “mom and dad” and they represent themselves to the world as a family. All financial support, medical insurance, education and all other costs are covered by the “parents” for all of the children in the family. Then, the parties decide to get divorced.
In New York State, regardless of precedent set by family circumstance or history, financial responsibility to support a child is required by law only when the child is biologically linked to a parent (by paternity testing or by admission). Without that biological link, unless formally adopted by law as in the Cyrus case , there is absolutely no legal financial obligation to provide support, insurance or child care.