August 05, 2005 06:00 PM

Comedian Eddie Murphy and his wife, Nicole, are splitting up.

On Friday, Nicole, a 37-year-old former model, filed for divorce from the Nutty Professor and Shrek star in Los Angeles after 12 years of marriage, PEOPLE has confirmed.

“The welfare of our children is our main concern and their best interest is our first priority,” Murphy, 44, said in a statement issued by his rep, Paul Bloch.

The pair have five kids. Their youngest daughter, Bella Zahra, is 3 years old. Their eldest, Bria, is 15.

The couple met in 1988 and wed in 1993. Nicole is asking for custody of the kids and is seeking spousal support.

Murphy, who began doing stand-up comedy at age 15, became the youngest comedian ever hired by Saturday Night Live at age 19. In the 1980s, he starred in series of hit films such as 48 Hours and Beverly Hills Cop.

Later his career hit a lull, but he shot back into the limelight with several family films including Dr. Dolittle, The Adventures of Pluto Nash and Shrek.

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