"[The split] was a long time coming," says a source close to the couple

By Aili Nahas
January 28, 2015 10:00 AM
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Credit: Lester Cohen/WireImage

Patrick Dempsey’s divorce after 15 years: Was it a surprise or a long time coming? Subscribe now for instant access inside this Hollywood split, only in PEOPLE.

The news last week that Grey’s Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey and his wife of 15 years are divorcing may have been a surprise to fans, but for those in his inner circle, the writing was on the wall.

“[The split] was a long time coming,” says a source close to the couple. “They were never going to make it work, but they tried.” Adds a family source, “They have had disagreements for a long time.”

Multiple sources note that the couple were often physically separated. Dempsey, an avid race car driver, was frequently out of town, while Jillian remained behind with their three children, Talula, 12 and twin boys Darby and Sullivan, almost 8.

When they were together, the relationship was increasingly strained. “They are both difficult in their own ways,” says the family source.

For now, the former couple can agree on at least one thing. The kids are priority No. 1. “Separately,” says the family source, “they are both still very involved with their children.”

For more on Patrick Dempsey’s split, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

Reporting by PERNILLA CEDENHEIM and JENNIFER GARCIA