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The news broke first this week in a New York tabloid, the same media that voraciously covered his father's own two divorces back in the day.
"Donald Trump Jr. and wife headed for divorce, friends say," blared the Page Six headline in The New York Post on Wednesday.
Then on Thursday came confirmation that what unnamed sources were blabbing about was true: Vanessa Trump filed for divorce late Thursday in Manhattan Superior Court.
The couple released a boiler-plate "we ask for our privacy during this time" statement and a plea for the public to think of their children.
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“After 12 years of marriage, we have decided to go our separate ways. We will always have tremendous respect for each other and our families,” the Trumps said in a joint statement given to media outlets. “We have five beautiful children together and they remain our top priority."
The message was heard and repeated on social media by many, including Chelsea Clinton, former first daughter who knows a thing or two about watching famous parents publicly grapple with marital stress.
"Please respect the privacy of President Trump’s grandchildren," Clinton tweeted. "They’re kids and deserve to not be your clickbait. Thank you."
Please respect the privacy of President Trump’s grandchildren. They’re kids and deserve to not be your clickbait. Thank you.— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) March 15, 2018
Vanessa, who was was seen out and about in New York on Friday without her wedding ring, has filed for an uncontested divorce. That means there likely won't be a battle for full custody of the children, though it's unclear who is seeking custody, according to Newsweek. It also signals that the split will be amicable and that there might be a prenuptial agreement in place.
Though there is some doubt about how amicable the divorce will be.
On Friday, Page Six reported that Vanessa has hired well-known criminal defense lawyer, David Feureisen, to represent her, raising questions about whether the split really will be friendly, and whether it has to do with special counsel Robert Mueller issuing subpoenas for Russia-related documents from the Trump Organization, which her husband and his brother are running while their dad is in the White House.
Manhattan law expert Bonnie Rabin told Page Six it's a "curious choice."
“If it’s an amicable situation you wouldn’t be highlighting the criminal aspect," she said.
On Thursday, after news of the divorce broke, Don Jr. posted an Instagram photo of himself with one of his daughters, writing: "No matter what is going on bedtime cuddling with the smurf puts a Yuge smile on my face."
The New York Times noted that Trump, who is active on Instagram, has posted mostly photos of himself with the children in recent months. The last photo that included his wife was in February when the family was in Palm Beach celebrating a son's birthday.
A post shared by Donald Trump Jr. (@donaldjtrumpjr) on
Trump is famously a child of divorce himself.
What he and his younger sister and brother, Ivanka and Eric, went through when their own parents divorced in 1992 was brutal. The divorce of Donald and Ivana Trump was messy, nasty and scandalous, a headline-making break-up that fed New York tabloids for weeks and, some say, left long-lasting scars for their oldest child. Ivanka was 8, Eric was 6 at the time.
It was certainly something Don Jr. couldn't avoid hearing about. He was 12, old enough to understand that his father was cheating on his mother with a woman named Marla Maples, who eventually became Trump Wife No. 2 and mother of the president's fourth child, Tiffany.
"I can only shake my head at how it insane it was," Ivana Trump wrote in her memoir, "Raising Trump." "I couldn't turn on the television without hearing my name."
Stories are often told that Don Jr. became angry with his father over the divorce. One of Ivana's friends told a Vanity Fair writer in 1990 that Junior once confronted his father with this: “How can you say you love us? You don’t love us! You don’t even love yourself. You just love your money."
It has often been said that Don Jr. did not speak to his father for a year after the divorce.
"Donny junior was being ridiculed at the Buckley School. Ivanka had been in tears at Chapin," Vanity Fair wrote at the time.
"When Donald and Marla Maples attended the same Elton John concert, Donny junior cried, for his father had told the children he would give Marla Maples up."
Ivana told New York gossip columnist Liz Smith that "the children are all wrecks. I don’t know how Donald can say they are great and fine. Ivanka now comes home from school crying, ‘Mommy, does it mean I’m not going to be Ivanka Trump anymore?’
"Little Eric asks me, ‘Is it true you are going away and not coming back?’"
Ivana gained sole custody of the three children in the divorce.
Donald Jr. and Vanessa began having their children within two years of their wedding. They married on Nov. 12, 2005, just 10 months after his father married Melania and at the same place — Mar-a-Lago.
Vanessa was raised on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and was a working model when she met Trump Jr. His father famously introduced them.
Nearly every mention of her single life mentions that she once dated Leonardo DiCaprio.
Her first child with Trump Jr. was born in 2007, making Donald Trump a grandfather for the first time.
In a 2016 interview with People, Ivanka called her sister-in-law "a machine" when it came to being able to multitask with so many children.
“She can take all of (my children) and not even notice. She has five children and she’s Wonder Woman to me," Ivanka said.
“She can be taking care of them all simultaneously, each pulling on her and have direct meaningful connections with each of them at one time. It’s remarkable."
Page Six's unnamed sources, described as friends and acquaintances of the couple, said the two had grown distant before the presidential campaign, which caused social media observers to scour recent photos of the two looking for clues of unhappiness.
“The problems have been there for a long time, the couple had hoped to stay together during the president’s time in office, but it is getting harder to resolve their issues," one source told Page Six. "He’s never there.”
Said another: “Don Jr. has been busy traveling, which has contributed to their problems. Vanessa is a devoted mother, but she is increasingly lonely and alone in the house with the children.”
History repeating itself?
In describing the breakdown of Donald and Ivana Trump's marriage, Vanity Fair observed: "As always, it was business with the Trumps, for that was their common purpose, the bond between them.
"In recent years, they never seemed to touch each other or exchange intimate remarks in public. They had become less like man and wife and more like two ambassadors from different countries, each with a separate agenda."
One source told Page Six that Vanessa has become increasingly uncomfortable with the attention her family got when the Trumps hit the world stage.
"She is also worried for her kids, particularly after she received the threatening letter containing the white powder," the source said.
Last month Vanessa was taken to a hospital as a precaution after she opened a letter addressed to her husband and mailed to their Manhattan home. it contained a threat and white powder that was later found to be non-hazardous.
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