Robert De Niro Releases Statement Following Split From Grace Hightower After 21 Years Of Marriage

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After over 20 years of marriage, Robert De Niro and his wife, Grace Hightower, have called it quits. The couple announced the split last week, but have been keeping a low profile — until now. Today, the Academy Award-winning actor issued a statement to Entertainment Tonight regarding the end of his decades-long marriage.

“Grace and I have two beautiful children together. We are entering a period of transition in our relationship which is a difficult but constructive process. I honor Grace as a wonderful mother and ask for privacy and respect from all as we proceed to develop our roles as partners in parenting.”

The couple has had a long and, at times, tumultuous relationship. De Niro met Hightower back in 1987. Ten years after they started dating, the pair made it official in 1997 and were married.

But it wasn’t always smooth sailing for the celebrity couple. In 1999 they briefly split, with De Niro filing for divorce and suing for custody of their son, Elliot. It was a contentious time in the relationship. However, the divorce was never finalized and the pair renewed their vows in 2004.

Despite De Niro’s legendary fame, the couple kept a relatively low profile. A philanthropist and entrepreneur, Hightower could be seen at De Niro’s side when walking the red carpet, but otherwise kept out of the limelight (aside from her own forays into acting and singing). Although notoriously private about his personal life, the couple appeared to have reconciled their rocky past and were going strong. As recently as 2013, De Niro spoke fondly with CBS News of his wife and family, enthusing about his toddler daughter and Hightower’s prowess as a mother.

But reports hint that this was a long time coming. According to rumors, the couple has not been living together for some time, and W Magazine reports that the separation has been in the works for several months. De Niro’s solo appearance at numerous events over the year appear to back up these statements; the last time the couple was seen together was back in June at the Tony Awards. Hightower has yet to comment on the divorce announcement, or on De Niro’s follow-up statement.

Robert De Niro and Grace Hightower have two children together: Elliot, 20 and Helen, 6. De Niro has three other children from previous relationships. He shares Raphael, 42, with his ex-wife Diahnne Abbott. He also has twin boys Aaron and Julian, 23, from his relationship with Toukie Smith.