Madonna And Guy Ritchie Announce Divorce

LONDON (AP) -- After countless denials of domestic trouble, Madonna and Guy Ritchie announced Wednesday they are divorcing after nearly eight years of marriage. The couple's announcement brings to an end a showbiz union that spanned the Atlantic and dominated the gossip columns.

Madonna - "Madge" to the British press - and her filmmaker husband were always greater tabloid fodder in England, where they lived. The pop star seemed to take to English life, spending much of her time at the couple's 1,200-acre country estate in Wiltshire, and to some ears, adopting a slight British accent.

But in recent years, reports began to accumulate that they were on the rocks. Over the summer, Madonna was linked - unfairly, she said - to the breakup of New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez and his ex-wife Cynthia.

The couple issued a brief statement by their representatives Wednesday, asking for respect from the press for their family's sake.

A financial settlement has not been agreed by the wealthy couple, who also must decide child custody issues.

Madonna and Ritchie, director of "Snatch" and "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," married in December 2000 at Skibo Castle, in the Scottish Highlands. The couple have two children: Rocco, 8, and David Banda, 3, who was adopted from Malawi in 2006. Madonna also has a 12-year-old daughter, Lourdes, from her relationship with personal trainer Carlos Leon.

The couple are reportedly worth some $525 million, the bulk of that belonging to Madonna. Ritchie has an estimated $35 million fortune. They own homes in London, Los Angeles and New York, and the retreat in Wiltshire.

"Who would have thunk it?" Madonna told Vogue magazine in an interview published in August 2005. "The last thing I thought I would do is marry some laddish, shooting, pubgoing nature lover and the last thing he thought he was going to do was marry some cheeky girl from the Midwest who doesn't take no for an answer!"

In the documentary "I'm Going to Tell You a Secret," Madonna gets behind the bar at a London tavern and offers to get a beer for Ritchie. He grins at her and says, "Please, Mrs. Ritchie, you get in there and pull me a pint."

Madonna was to perform concerts Wednesday and Thursday in Boston as her "Sticky and Sweet" tour continued. Ritchie's latest movie, "RocknRolla," recently opened to mixed reviews.

In London, Ritchie's mother, Lady Amber Leighton, told reporters that the family wouldn't be making any statement to the media.

Lawyers said the couple would likely try to come to an agreement before heading to court.

"The judgment of the court would be to try and assess what they came in with and divide what they built up fairly equally," said David Allison, a lawyer with Family Law in Partnership, a London firm.

The needs of the couple's children will also be factored by the court, as they were in Britain's most recent high-profile celebrity divorce, the battle between former Beatle Paul McCartney and model Heather Mills. In that case, McCartney and Mills fought over money and custody of their young daughter.

Mills received 24.3 million pounds in the divorce after four years of marriage.

"The needs of children figure quite highly, and that was one of the reasons Heather Mills got a gigantic amount of money, despite the fact that the bulk of Sir Paul's money was made before the marriage," Allison said.

The Sun newspaper splashed the split across its front page Wednesday, under the headline: "We're Divorcing."

Madonna, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, has found lesser success as a screen star, starring in the musical "Evita" and the comedy "Desperately Seeking Susan." Her most notable collaboration with Ritchie was the panned 2002 film "Swept Away."

She married Sean Penn in 1985, but they divorced four years later.


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