Brooke Burke and David Charvet's Surprise Split: Inside Their Years-in-the-Making Relationship and Quiet Separation

The fitness guru and TV personality surprisingly filed for divorce from the Baywatch actor after seven years of marriage and more than 12 years together

By Natalie Finn Apr 09, 2018 8:01 PMTags

It seems as though couples who get married aboard a boat at sunset in glorious St. Barts should be exempt from the less picturesque outcomes when it comes to that union's future.

Alas, less than seven years after swapping vows in exactly that fashion, Brooke Burke has filed for divorce from David Charvet. They had been together since 2006 and have two children together, daughter Rain and son Shaya. Burke also has two daughters, Neriah and Sierra, from her first marriage.

So what happened, seemingly all of a sudden, to one of the more enduring duos in Hollywood?

Well, for starters, as we surely all know by now, there are very few actual documented occurrences of "all of a sudden."

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"We have tried to keep our separation private for some time out of respect for our children and family," Burke opened up on Modern Mom, her longtime online home base. "Although I believe this is a positive change, I am deeply saddened because I loved being married. It took me a long time to differentiate between giving up and letting go, and even longer to recognize when it was time to do so. We are still a family full of love, simply redefining our dynamics. I believe this is a necessary decision for my entire family unit.

"There was nothing sensational that caused this divorce and nothing scandalous will surface, please believe that we are just finding new ways to remain a loving family."

Burke communicates from the heart, as always. The model turned TV host turned fitness guru wrote back in 2010, "We started talking about why to do it at this point in our relationship. 'Do you want forever?' David asked. 'Yes, I need forever,' I said. It was just that simple. I would like to have a husband."

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She and the French-born Charvet, who's best known for upping the eye-candy factor on Bay WatchMelrose Place and every other show he's ever been on, went public as a couple in 2006, years after first meeting each other. When they did finally get together, Burke was newly divorced from plastic surgeon Garth Fisher, whom she'd married in 2001 and been with for seven years overall.

Burke's been open over the years about the not-always-easy time of it she had with her kids post-divorce, writing about the always-loving, not-always-liking relationship that parents don't admit they have with their children in her 2011 book The Naked Mom. In 2010 her and Fisher's daughters were spending two weeks at a time with each parent, and she said the arrangement was probably even harder on her and Fisher.

"It's never easy," she told Working Mother. "I have a great relationship with my ex, and we're committed to raising our family together, so it's kind of a best-case scenario. But it's still difficult. And I also deal with my girls separating from their younger siblings. They know their schedule and that it's the best routine for them. Their younger brother and sister know that they're always coming back. It is what it is."


She also admitted on her blog that, when she and Charvet finally decided to tie the knot, "although I knew it would be one of Rain and Shaya's happiest days, my two oldest daughters needed to warm up to the idea.

"I gave them freedom to feel and participate as they wished. Thankfully, they supported me and opened their hearts to share in my special day, in trust of a deeper family commitment." 

All four kids were by Burke and Charvet's side, the entire wedding party dressed in white, for their Aug. 12, 2011, nuptials. (They made it legal a month later, with the divorce petition listing their actual marriage date as Sept. 9, 2011.)

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Operation Smil

Talking about how she introduced her daughters to the then-new man in her life back in the day, Burke told Wendy Williams in January, "I think the most important thing is having a working divorce, having a better relationship with your ex than you had when you were married, and keeping those promises… David and I knew each other for a long time. In hindsight, looking back, I think I would have done a lot of things different—custody, introducing new love. But when you're in it, sometimes it's really difficult."

But now she knows, especially since her eldest, Neriah, is off to college this year, "The journey of a child's life goes by like that [finger-snap]. We have forever for love…keep your promises in a divorce."

At the time, of course, it seemed as if she was only talking about the demise of marriage No. 1, and she graciously accepted Williams' compliment about what a good-looking couple her and Charvet make. A compliment she's surely fielded endlessly over the years. "Thank you—he's hot," Burke agreed.

The episode aired Jan. 25, and their date of separation is listed as Jan. 23.

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"I always joke about it, 'right guy, wrong time,'" Burke said in a 2011 interview to discuss her book, which also included details of the steamier things she and Charvet did to keep the romance alive. "It took us 15 years to figure it out, and I truly do believe that he's my soulmate. But yes, we met in Mexico, we had this steamy affair, we couldn't put it together—but it was for a lot of reasons. We were too young, I had a marriage, he went off to Europe, I was supposed to have Neriah and Sierra.

"You know, I have no regrets. I was supposed to marry Garth Fisher. Life takes turns, and I've embraced all of that. You know, I don't look back with any negativity. But sometimes it takes a long time to figure it out, and honestly, David and I needed to grow up. We never would have made it had we have made a commitment to each other when we were 22. It just was not going to happen."

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But when she and Fisher split up, it happened.

They actually got engaged in 2006, Rain was born in 2007 and Shaya followed in 2008—though that time frame wasn't exactly part of the plan.

"I promised David two children, now I've kept my word," Burke said in a Q&A with readers in February 2008, while she was pregnant. "I probably would have waited a little while longer! When I say it was a surprise, there's this myth that you can't really get pregnant while you're breastfeeding—well, not true!"

The family set up shop in Malibu and Burke would later rave about how Charvet stepped up as Mr. Mom to a newborn, a 2-year-old and "two squabbling stepdaughters" when she competed later that year on Dancing With the Stars—which she considered quitting because of the toll it was taking on her body and piece of mind, and then ended up winning.

"I think what's really important about a 'modern dad' is really finding the balance between work and the home life, and being able to really be there for your kids, being there for your so-called wife..." Charvet said in a sit-down with his "modern mom" partner in 2009. "You're a good daddy," Burke assured him. "Aw, thanks babe," he cooed back.

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In 2011, after being comfortably engaged for five years, the couple decided to take the plunge.

"I felt incredibly peaceful, certain, and blissfully happy," Burke blogged after their wedding. "In my soul, I was already married. Making the spiritual commitment to exchange vows in our favorite place, in front of our four children, with my soulmate seemed like a real life fairytale."

She continued, "I was happy with how things were. But something changed this past year. To stand with David in the middle of the Caribbean Sea and exchange our promise to one another seemed so powerful and meaningful. It was the greatest gift that I could give to us and to our children."

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When E! News caught up with her a few months later, Burke assured that their family would remain the same size for the foreseeable future.

"David would say yes [to more kids] but no, we're not going to have any more," she said. "We have enough. I'm so blessed to have my four. I actually need to give more of myself to the children that I have...having another baby, I just feel like I can't divide and conquer anymore."

She didn't even want anymore pets in the house. "I would like a good night's sleep," she said, laughing. "I want a full page in my calendar that's blank and empty that's for mandatory R&R."

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Meanwhile, the family's "starter home" was an Italianate mansion in Malibu Hills, with decor inspired by the French countryside, that they painstakingly spent two years restoring, with Charvet overseeing the renovations. "For me, it was really about building a home that Brooke and I could fall in love with," he explained to HGTV. They leased the house for $50,000 a month and then put it on the market for $13 million in 2014 when they moved to a brand-new chateau-style home nearby—but then they ended up not wanting to let their first house go.

"We actually built another chateau—twice the size of this one—right down the street that we moved into for a couple of years," Charvet, who's enjoying another career in the luxury construction business as co-owner of Jones Builders Group, told the Los Angeles Times in January 2017. "But we found ourselves coming back to this one. It's kind of a keeper." 

Gushing about the open-air cabana in the yard that was perfect for both entertaining and close-to-home date nights, Charvet said, "It's very romantic. You can see the pool, the house, the whole backyard. We wanted to take people out of L.A. When you come over, you feel like you're in a completely different place."

Exploring the work-family balance as a "Modern Mom" has been at the center of Burke's career for the last decade, and has expanded to include lifestyle and fitness tips for women on the go, most recently through her app Brooke Burke Body.

Trying to push past the regrets over how her first marriage ended—not that it ended, per se, but how it affected her oldest daughters—also seems to be something that's been central to her parenting approach over the years.    

"I regret that my two oldest daughters have to grow up knowing that sometimes a family falls apart. That's my heartbreaking life lesson," Burke told New You in 2014. "But I'm happy that they can see love now...I feel more accomplished because I have a family and I'm very lucky to be in a loving marriage with a man that I'm in love with and he's in love with me."

Kim Raff/Getty Images

At least that's where the first go-round comes in handy. As she just told Wendy Williams a few months ago, Burke has the benefit of experience when it comes to figuring out the co-parenting and other kid-centric modes of behavior when you're in the middle of splitting up. 

"Keep your promises in a divorce," as she said.

But while the dynamic is changing, the members of the "team"—the worse she's commonly used to refer to Charvet and her kids (and her mom, her rock through it all)—remains the same.

"The most important people in my life are those who I see when I go home, the ones I fall back upon," she told New You. "Everything else is icing. If you have that kind of a foundation, you can do anything."

In March Burke and Neriah had a blast on a mother-daughter spring break getaway to Turks and Caicos (not a bad way for the teen to ring in the big 1-8, either), and Burke's Instagram has been full of time spent with the kids, bonding with her girlfriends and, of course, working out. (We have two words for you: plank position.)

Also just a month ago the whole family (well, minus Nierah, who now that she's 18 tends to excuse herself from such things) spent time in the snow together during Operation Smile's 2018 Celebrity Ski & Smile Challenge in Park City, Utah.

Kim Raff/Getty Images

Burke and Charvet are longtime patrons of the organization, which provides surgeries for children to correct cleft lips and palates, and were co-chairing the ski challenge and VIP dinner.

Burke further wrote about her pending divorce, "Big life decisions are hardest when made for the right reasons. It is sometimes painful to be strong and embrace change. I believe in letting go of ideas and dreams when the time is right. I am in that space right now as a woman and a mother, listening to my heart. I am approaching this with gratitude and unconditional love."

And from the looks of it, Team Burke-Charvet remains intact where it counts for the kids.