After more than two decades together, Mary Kay Letourneau and her former student-turned-husband Vili Fualaau, are separating, PEOPLE confirms

By KC Baker
May 30, 2017 07:33 PM

Mary Kay Letourneau‘s illicit relationship with Vili Fualaau shocked the world — and now, after more than two headline-grabbing decades, it appears to be coming to an end.

On Tuesday, PEOPLE confirmed that Fualaau has filed for separation from the 55-year-old Letourneau, who was sentenced to more than seven years in prison on charges of child rape in connection with their affair before they married in 2005.

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

Any issues they face are between the two of them, the source says. No one else is involved.

Here is a timeline of their relationship.

Mary Kay Letourneau in 1996
| Credit: AP Photo/Seattle Post-Intelligencer

June 1996: The couple met in 1996, when Fualaau was in Letourneau’s sixth-grade class in Seattle. She started helping him with his budding drawing skills after school, sometimes at her home. By June, they began having sex — when he was just 12 years old and very much a minor.

Opening up about her first intimate moment with Fualaau, Letourneau told Barbara Walters on ABC’s 20/20 in 2015, “The incident was a late night that didn’t stop with a kiss. I thought that it would and it didn’t.”

When Fualaau began seventh-grade that fall at Seattle’s Cascade Middle School, he was a father-to-be: Letourneau, a married mom of four, was pregnant with her former student’s baby.

1997: Letourneau’s obsessive connection with Fualaau grew deeper — and her husband at the time discovered a love letter that his wife had written to the boy. He turned the letter over to police, and on March 4, 1997, she was arrested and charged with second-degree child rape.

Out on bail, Letourneau gave birth on May 23, 1997, to their first child, a daughter named Audrey.

Letourneau was sentenced to 89 months in prison in November 1997, following her guilty plea on two second-degree child rape charges, but she was paroled after six months on the condition that she stay away from Fualaau. That was not to be.

A March 1998 PEOPLE cover story on the Mary Kay Letourneau case

1998: In February 1998, after she was released from prison, police spotted Letourneau having sex with Fualaau in her car.

She shocked the world once more when she became pregnant with her second child with Fualaau. On Feb. 6, 1998, the judge who had ordered Letourneau to stay away from Fualaau ordered her to serve out the rest of her seven-and-a-half-year sentence.

In October 1998, Letourneau gave birth to Georgia, her second daughter with Fualaau, but this time behind bars at the Washington Corrections Center for Women. While in prison, Fualaau’s mother raised their baby daughters.

1999: Letourneau and her then-husband divorced in 1999, leaving her free to marry again. While her two daughters with Fualaau remained with his family, her now-ex-husband had sole custody of their four kids.

Mary Kay Letourneau in court in February 1998
| Credit: Alan Berner/AP
Vili Fualaau in October 1998
| Credit: John Froschauer/AP

2004: When Letourneau was released from prison in August 2004, Fualaau, then 21, asked the court to reverse the no-contact order against Letourneau, which the judge granted.

2005: The couple, who professed their love after so many years, began planning their wedding. On May 20, 2005, Letourneau and Fualaau married at a winery in Washington, where they exchanged vows in front of more than 200 guests and their two daughters, who served as flower girls. “My one true love,” Letourneau, then 43, told her 22-year-old groom, “Where you stay I will stay, and where you die I will die.”

Wendy Cracchiolo, Mary Kay’s roommate at the University of Arizona, told PEOPLE at the time: “There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”

2006: Fualaau and Letourneau gave an interview to PEOPLE a year after their wedding. “We do normal things,” said Letourneau, who sometimes had all four of her children staying with her and Fualaau and their daughters at the three-bedroom beachside house they rented in Normandy Park, Wash.

Recently, she said at the time, “we all went out to dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant, then over to Blockbuster to get a movie.”

Vili Fualaau and Mary Kay Letourneau (center, left to right) with their two daughters in 2015
| Credit: Heidi Gutman/ABC/Getty

2015: Now parents to teenage daughters and living in Seattle, Letourneau and Fualaau celebrated their 10th anniversary in 2015, with Letourneau working as a legal assistant and Fualaau as a DJ.

Fualaau said in the 20/20 interview that he struggled with depression during this “dark time” and the years that followed. “I’m surprised I m still alive today,” he said. “I went through a really dark time.”

Not having a strong support system when Letourneau became pregnant with his children was the hardest part.

“It was a huge change in my life, for sure. I don’t feel like I had the right support or the right help behind me,” he said. “From my family, from anyone in general. I mean, my friends couldn’t help me because they had no idea what it was like to be a parent, I mean, because we were all 14, 15.”

In her 2015 interview, when Walters asked Letourneau whether she felt “guilty” or “disgusted” with herself for having an affair with Fualaau, Letourneau replied, “I loved him very much, and I kind of thought, ‘Why can’t it ever just be a kiss?’ ”

2017: Letourneau’s attorney, David Gehrke, told PEOPLE in May that it was Fualaau who filed for separation.

“She could try to contest it, but that’s legally tough to do,” he said. “Perhaps if they want to figure out about the children and child support, but their kids are getting pretty old now.”

“When one person is unhappy in the relationship, the other person can’t be happy either,” he continued. “And there are two people in this relationship.”