London: Madonna and filmmaker Guy Ritchie will end their marriage after nearly eight years, the couple said in a joint statement on Wednesday.
The couple asked the media to "maintain respect for their family at this difficult time," said the statement, e-mailed to The Associated Press by Liz Rosenberg, Madonna's publicist.
A financial settlement has not been agreed by the wealthy couple, who must also decide child custody issues.
In London, Ritchie's mother, Lady Amber Leighton, told reporters that the family wouldn't be making any statement.
Madonna and Ritchie, director of Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, married in December 2000 at a Scottish castle. 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 a 1,200-acre retreat in Wiltshire, England.
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.
Ritchie's career has faltered during the marriage, while Madonna's songs, videos and concerts remain popular worldwide.
The needs of the couple's children will also be factored by the court, as they were in Britain's latest 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 on Wednesday under the headline: "We're Divorcing." It was the second time this year that the superstar couple's marriage has come under the media microscope. Over the summer, Madonna was linked – unfairly, she said – to the breakup of New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez and his ex-wife Cynthia.
Madonna was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year.