Have Jon and Kate Gosselin been forcing those camera-ready smiles for some time?
In divorce papers filed yesterday in Pennsylvania's Montgomery County Court, petitioner Kate refers to her 10-year marriage as "irretrievably broken" and checked a box indicating that she and her partner in reality-TV confusion have been living "separate and apart" for at least two years.
Interesting, considering TLC's Jon & Kate Plus 8 had featured what looked like a cohesive family unit up until the show's fifth-season premiere last month.
But the filing doesn't mean that Jon and Kate haven't been living in the same house; rather, that their union has presumably been on the rocks long before the celebrity-gossip machine picked up on it.
Lawyers for the estranged duo didn't go into detail, but they confirmed that Jon and Kate did not live apart all that time.
"Over the course of this weekend, Jon's activities have left me no choice but to file legal procedures in order to protect myself and our children," Kate said in a statement Monday.
This season of the hit show was preceded by a series of magazine covers speculating on Jon's alleged infidelity, Kate's temperament and their largely separate lives the past few months. Last month, Kate took the kids on vacation while Jon hung out with pals in New York and, last week, Jon checked out a bachelor pad in one of Donald Trump's more affordable buildings, Trump Place.
Last night's episode hit an all-time ratings high as the Gosselins addressed their decision to split. Their physical separation has also forced TLC to put production on Jon & Kate Plus 8 on hiatus until August, affording the family "time off to regroup."
But while both parents were spotted earlier today playing with their kids outside their spacious home—where Jon and Kate will take turns caring for the brood in the future—in an affected stab at normalcy, their divorce filing reveals that they have not been able to agree on how to divide their assets.
According to divorce attorney Jennifer Brandt, who is not involved with the Gosselins, Kate's two-year separation claim could be money-related. In Pennsylvania, any income an individual makes between the time of separation and divorce belongs solely to him or her, and Kate has reportedly been raking in the dough from book deals and speaking appearances, in addition to what she's earned from her TV show.
After two years of separation, a spouse can file for a no-fault divorce, which puts the relationship on the fast-track to dissolution.
Kate will have to prove that she and Jon were living like roommates rather than a married couple during the two-year stretch of being "separate and apart," Brandt tells E! News.
"I mean, we've all seen them on TV acting as they're married," she says. "[Kate] would have to come out and say that was just a facade, and that realistically, they weren't really together."
"If she's successful in her claim that there has been a two-year separation, she'll be able to move this divorce forward without even waiting for [Jon's] consent."
If the Gosselins find common ground and sort out their financial and custody issues outside of court, Brandt says, they can avoid going before a judge and airing their dirty laundry in public. After all, she adds, "this is not something that they want in front of a judge."
—Additional reporting by Lindsay Miller
(Originally published June 23, 2009, at 4:10 p.m. PT)