Rosie O'Donnell and Late Ex-Wife Michelle Rounds' Relationship: From Meeting at Starbucks to a Custody Battle and Tragedy
“I am saddened to hear about this terrible tragedy,” the 55-year-old said in a statement. “Mental illness is a very serious issue affecting many families. My thoughts and prayers go out to Michelle’s family, her wife and their child.”
The couple’s marriage lasted just over two years, ending in a custody dispute and ensuing legal battle. Here’s everything you need to know about their relationship in the wake of this tragedy.
O’Donnell and Rounds – a corporate headhunter for an I.T. company – first met in the early months of 2011, a source told PEOPLE at the time, revealing that their chance encounter actually happened at a Starbucks. “They are adorable together and are very, very happy,” the insider said.
By the end of the year, the pair were engaged, with O’Donnell sharing the happy news on her talk show in December.
“Michelle said to me a few months ago, when we got engaged, she said, ‘How come you didn’t say it on your show?’ And I was like, ‘Honey, I don’t know how.’ I didn’t know how to say it,” O’Donnell revealed at the time, noting that she was sometimes fearful of opening up publicly about her romantic life.
On June 9, 2012, O’Donnell and Rounds said “I do” in a private New York ceremony – a few months earlier than planned. The expedited ceremony came after both women suffered health scares – O’Donnell had a heart attack, and Rounds was diagnosed with desmoid tumors, a rare disease that only affects three out of every million people.
O’Donnell’s rep Cindi Berger told PEOPLE at the time, “It is such a rare tumor. It took them quite a while to get an accurate diagnosis. She had several gastrointestinal surgeries to remove the desmoid tumors. She is now on the road to recovery.”
The star was only focused on the positive, though, writing on her blog, “We married in private before [Michelle’s] surgery, just the [two] of us. When we r both well enough will have the wedding of r dreams surrounded by those we cherish.”
“Thankful for the love and support so many have given us during these trying times,” she continued in the post. “Including all of u stranger-friends connected thru invisible strands of wi-fi.”
The couple focused on healing s in the months that followed, with Rounds revealing during an October appearance on the Dr. Oz Show, “I’ve been working with [O’Donnell] for about a year on thinking of better, healthier habits, and I think she’s come a long way. She tends to put others first. She has a very big heart, but I think we’ve come a long way. We’re on the right track.”
In early January 2013, O’Donnell and Rounds welcomed daughter Dakota through adoption, with the former’s rep later telling PEOPLE, “moms and baby are healthy and happy.”
Just six months after re-joining The View, O’Donnell announced she was leaving the show in February 2015 – and revealed, at the same time, her November 2014 separation from Rounds.
Later that month, O’Donnell filed for divorce from Rounds in Manhattan State Supreme Court on the grounds of “an irretrievably broken relationship,” according to documents obtained by PEOPLE at the time.
By April, things had taken a turn from amicable, with Rounds requesting sole custody of Dakota. “Right now she has 24/7 nannies over there at Rosie’s house,” Rounds told Entertainment Tonight. “I don’t want my child to have a nanny. I want her to be outside playing, I want to be with her. I want to go to all the parent conferences and that’s just not what it’s about over there.”
In response, O’Donnell’s rep told PEOPLE that Rounds seeking sole custody was “an absurd and desperate attempt to use a child for her own gain.”
The next month, Rounds missed the first court hearing in the estranged couple’s divorce case.
Despite the legal turmoil, O’Donnell lent a helping hand in September 2015, when Rounds was hospitalized after an apparent overdose. A source told PEOPLE that Rounds and O’Donnell got in contact during the incident and the latter stayed on the phone until Rounds was taken to the hospital.
Rounds’ lawyer told Entertainment Tonight at the time she was “okay.”
In October, the divorce was finally settled during a three-hour court appearance in New York, with O’Donnell joking, “There’s peace in the Middle East,” according to the New York Post‘s Page Six. “It’s done. We’ve settled. We’re both very happy about the outcome.”
Rounds and O’Donnell’s divorce was finalized in March 2016, with O’Donnell teasing of herself, “She’s never getting married again, you can print that.”
Rounds did, however, remarry, to Krista Monteleone, with whom she shared one daughter.
If you or someone you know needs support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.