The controversial couple is going their separate ways after nearly 14 years of marriage


For years, Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau have tried to find a path forward in their controversial marriage.

“They tried everything,” a source close to Letourneau tells PEOPLE, “but it was like a house of cards. They’d start building the house, and then it would fall apart. And then they’d start building again, and it would fall again. They just couldn’t get anything solid to work.”

The source, who has known Letourneau for years, says the stressors got to be too much.

One problem was how the couple was doomed to keep revisiting their controversial past. The relationship began when Fualaau was just 12 years old and Letourneau was his sixth-grade teacher. Ultimately, she was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for child rape in connection with their relationship. She twice became pregnant with Fualaau’s children before he was 15, despite court orders that would keep them apart.

By the time she was released from prison, Fualaau was an adult — and he petitioned the court to allow them to see each other. The restraining order was dropped, but Letourneau remains a registered sex offender in Washington state.

The couple married in 2005, despite the criminal history of their relationship.

The source says that Letourneau, 57, and Fualaau, 35, have had to be public about their relationship to make ends meet.

“There have been money troubles,” says the source. “That’s why they’ve had to talk about their relationship for paid interviews; they’ve needed the cash. Do you think they’ve enjoyed talking about her past as a sex offender, and him as a 12-year-old? And answering questions about how often they had sex? No. It’s embarassing. But that’s how they’ve supplemented their income for years.

“He isn’t pulling in the cash, and she didn’t make much money as a legal assistant,” the source continues. “So they have to sell their story to anyone who will pay them, even if they don’t want to. Their past has caught up with them.”

ABC News & Barbara Walters 20/20 Exclusive: Mark Kay Letourneau Fualaau and Vili Fualaau on Their 10th Anniversary
Credit: Heidi Gutman/ABC/Getty

The source also claims that the age difference has finally taken its toll.

“She’s pushing 60, and he’s in his mid-30s,” says the Letourneau source. “He’s never had another girlfriend. He’s never really dated. And I think he’s just decided that he needs to see if there’s more out there for him.”

Fualaau filed for legal separation. Despite their reconciliation attempts, PEOPLE confirms a legal filing with the King County Superior Court stating the couple is moving forward with private arbitration to finalize their split.

“I’m not surprised that they got married,” Letourneau’s lawyer and friend David Gehrke told PEOPLE in 2017, after the couple first announced their plans to split before they later attempted to reconcile. “And I’m not surprised, in this day and age, that they are separating.”

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

ABC News & Barbara Walters 20/20 Exclusive: Mark Kay Letourneau Fualaau and Vili Fualaau on Their 10th Anniversary
Credit: Heidi Gutman/ABC/Getty

RELATED VIDEO: Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau’s Relationship Through the Years — from Prison to Marriage

Even after the split, Letourneau and Fualaau still lived together. They were occasionally spotted out in the Seattle area. They both remain active in the lives of their two daughters, Georgia and Audrey.

But the source tells PEOPLE that they’re now working on new living arrangements. “It’s time for them to separate completely,” says the insider. “They’re figuring out what that looks like. It’s hard for them both to believe that it’s over.”