MADONNA and Guy Ritchie are to divorce it has been confirmed by their official spokesperson.

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Reports surfaced today (15.10.08) the couple were heading for a legal separation and now the 50-year-old singer’s US spokesperson Liz Rosenberg has validated the rumours.

In a statement, Rosenberg said: “Madonna and Guy Ritchie have agreed to divorce after 7 l/2 years of marriage. They have both requested the media maintain respect for their family at this difficult time. A final settlement has not been agreed upon yet.”

It is believed the couple had been arguing over their careers and the upbringing of their children. A source said: “It’s very sad. They were a great couple and brilliant parents. They just couldn’t live together any more.

“Despite huge attempts to patch things up they both knew deep down that divorce was on the cards. It wasn’t a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’. They tried hard over the last few months but their arguments were getting out of control.”

Christmas would be the couple’s eighth wedding anniversary.

While the 4 Minutes singer was keen to wait until next year to announce the split – after her current Sticky and Sweet tour has finished – Guy, 40, is said to have demanded the split be made public now.

A source said: “The final straw came before Madonna started her US tour. She wanted a highly stage-managed separation, with their split being announced when it was convenient for her.

“But a series of rows around Guy’s 40th birthday last month were so bad that Madonna ended up storming out of the house, and Guy’s had enough. He said if they were going to split, it has to be now — and their marriage will be over in a matter of weeks.

“Madonna was dithering at first about whether a separation would be best or whether to go ahead with the divorce. She has now agreed with Guy that a divorce is the best thing to do.”

Guy is said to have halted shooting on his latest film project, Sherlock Holmes, and flown back from France to announce the news to his parents. He is expected to move out of the couple’s home in Marylebone, owned by Madonna, and into Ashcombe House, the Wiltshire property which belongs to him.

Rumours Madonna and Guy’s marriage was crumbling have dogged the couple for months.

In July, it was initially reported they were heading for divorce, and the whispers intensified after Madonna was accused of having an affair with married baseball player Alex Rodriguez.

Guy flew out to see Madonna in New York in July in an attempt to patch things up and the couple put on a show of strength for the London premiere of Guy’s latest film RocknRolla in September. They were also together at Madonna’s 50th birthday, but then Madonna left Guy’s own birthday party last month after just an hour.

Madonna and Guy have also reportedly been fighting over their children – son Rocco, eight, their adopted son David Banda, two, and Lourdes, 12, the pop star’s daughter with Carlos Leon.

The Snatch filmmaker wants the children to stay rooted in one place, rather than being constantly moved around with their mother.

Guy is expected to receive a staggering £150 million in a divorce settlement, as it is believed the couple did not sign a pre-nuptial agreement and Madonna’s earnings have eclipsed his since they tied the knot.