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Posted: Tuesday July 3, 2012 2:49PM ; Updated: Tuesday July 3, 2012 5:36PM

Saints' Payton, wife file for divorce after 20 years

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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- Suspended New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and his wife of nearly 20 years have filed dueling divorce petitions in Texas.

Payton filed a petition in Tarrant County district court seeking a divorce from Beth Payton on June 14. It lists the grounds as "discord or conflict of personalities" and seeks to divide the couple's assets and provide for joint custody of their two children.

Beth Payton filed a counter petition on June 26 requesting that she receive primary custody of the children and exclusive rights to make other decisions, such as those concerning their medical care and education, on their behalf. It also asks that the coach pay child support and pay for the children's medical care.

The breakdown of the Paytons' marriage comes during an already difficult year for the embattled coach, who has been suspended for the entire 2012 season in connection with an NFL investigation that concluded the Saints had a bounty system for the past three seasons that paid defensive players improper cash bonuses for injury-casing hits to targeted opponents.

The divorce papers were filed in Texas because the couple moved to an exclusive neighborhood in the Fort Worth suburb of Westlake in 2011. Payton has said since his suspension that he hopes to spend as much time as possible with his children and even coach his son Connor's football team.

It is not clear how the divorce may affect the coach's plans, but the papers indicate that he has already moved out of the couple's primary residence.

Sean Payton could not be reached for comment and his attorney, Gary Nickelson, did not return a call to his office. Beth Payton's attorney, Heather King, declined comment.

The Paytons' move from suburban New Orleans to Texas was initially met with angst by Saints fans who were concerned that the most successful coach in club history, who joined the Saints in 2006 and won a Super Bowl in his fourth season, was no longer as personally invested in the community as he had been during his first five years there.

However, the coach, who was an assistant in Dallas for three years before coming to New Orleans, stated that he and his wife had long aspired to live in the neighborhood to which they moved, and to enroll their daughter Megan, 15, and Connor, 12, in an elite private school there.

Payton commuted regularly between Dallas and New Orleans during the 2011 season. The travel did not appear to interfere significantly with his work. The Saints won the NFC South Division with a 13-3 record and set numerous club and NFL records with the offense that Payton designed.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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