After 12 years of marriage, the couple are going their separate ways
Credit: Albert L. Ortega/Getty

After 12 years of marriage, Jason Aldean and Jessica Ussery are calling it quits.

Citing irreconcilable differences, the country star filed for divorce in Williamson County, Tenn., court on April 26, according to papers obtained by PEOPLE.

“This is a really tough time for my entire family. Jessica and I have been together since we were teenagers. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs over the years as we grew up together as a couple,” Aldean exclusively told PEOPLE in a statement.

“She will always be important to me because she is the mother of my children, and I know that we will both always make our daughters our number one priority.”

One day prior to filing the papers, Aldean’s rep confirmed that Aldean, 36, and wife Jessica – who are parents to daughters Keeley, 10, and Kendyl, 5 – were having problems.

“I can confirm that Jason and his wife are having problems, but there is nothing more to share with the press at this time,” his rep told PEOPLE at the time. “It’s a private family matter, and we hope everyone will respect that he would like to keep it that way.”

In his statement on Monday, Aldean also asked for privacy. “I’ve learned that everyone always rushes to judgment when they hear news like this. That’s really hard because no one knows anything about our relationship but us,” he continued. “I understand that because of my job, I have to go through a lot of this in the public eye, but for my girls’ sake I really wish people would give us some level of privacy and at the very least be respectful of them.”

The divorce comes after Aldean was photographed being affectionate with season 11 American Idol contestant Brittany Kerr last fall. Although Aldean issued a public apology, the setback affected the couple.

While Aldean told PEOPLE in December that “All that other stuff is kind of in the past and we’re just looking to have a great year in 2013,” he walked the red carpet alone at the Academy of Country Music Awards earlier this month.

Reporting by MARY MARGARET