Mary Kay Letourneau and ex-student lover legally separate

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WATCH: Ex-schoolteacher Mary Kay Letourneau and her former student Vili Fualaau have separated.

Twenty-one years after their illicit affair, former schoolteacher Mary Kay Letourneau and her Grade 6 student beau, Vili Fualaau, appear to be headed for divorce.

“They’ve been having issues for a while now,” a source close to the couple told People magazine. “They tried to work through them, but it didn’t work. They’re still committed to being good parents to their children.”

People further confirms that Letourneau, 55, and Fualaau, 33, are now legally separated, and a reconciliation “seems unlikely.” Fualaau filed for the separation, says Letourneau’s lawyer.

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The pair first met in a Seattle school in 1996, when Letourneau was a 34-year-old teacher with four kids, and Fualaau was a mere 12 years old. In various interviews over the years, the couple has spoken about their instant attraction and chemistry, and how they were “drawn together.” When they first came forward with their relationship, the public reacted with revulsion, especially when Letourneau knowingly defied a court order to keep her distance from Fualaau.

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She pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree child rape, and was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison. Letourneau and Fualaau married in 2005, and they have two children; their second child was born while Letourneau was in jail.

In a 2006 interview, Fualaau (then 22 years old) wondered aloud what would have happened if he never pursued Letourneau.

“I think, ‘What would my life have been like if I had never made a move on Mary?'” he said. “What if I had kept it as a crush and left it at that? Where would I be and where would she be — what would life be like? I can never see more than the question.”

While it’s not totally clear why Fualaau wanted to end the 12-year marriage, former Letourneau lawyer David Gehrke thinks it was inevitable.

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“I’m not surprised that they got married, and I’m not surprised, in this day and age, that they got divorced,” said Gehrke. “I’m convinced they were totally in love, but sometimes people who are totally in love have trouble staying in love. They slowly drift apart. One day, you wake up and realize that things are different with your partner.”

“They loved each other,” he continued. “They were devoted to each other. They courted for 10 years and they were married for 10 years. Yes, he was a minor, but they had back-channel contact during the time they weren’t supposed to be speaking. Not as regularly as they would have otherwise, but they were in contact. This was a couple who was in love. They had children together, and they raised those children.”

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There is speculation that because both of the couples’ children are now 18 and older, Letourneau and Fualaau became empty-nesters and their relationship “fell apart.” There are also reports that Letourneau has moved to dismiss Fualaau’s separation filing with the court, but there are no documents to confirm it.

Additionally, some sources are quoting Fualaau as saying he wants the separation for “business purposes,” so he can start up a marijuana cigarette company. With Letourneau’s criminal background, that nullifies any chance for him to start up the business. Again, this has not been verified.

Neither Fualaau nor Letourneau has made a public comment about the separation, and Whitney Gardner, lawyer for Fualaau, requests privacy for the family.