AceShowbiz - Robert De Niro and his estranged wife Grace Hightower are heading to court to establish custody arrangements for their young daughter.
The "Raging Bull" star and Hightower hit headlines in November (18), when it was revealed the couple had been living apart after 21 years as husband and wife. De Niro subsequently confirmed the marriage split, and asked for privacy as he and philanthropist Grace began the "difficult but constructive process" of transition.
Now sources tell the New York Post's Page Six the veteran actor quietly filed for divorce in December (18), and although the separation appeared to be amicable, the exes have yet to sort out custody of their seven-year-old daughter Helen.
The filing at Manhattan Supreme Court was reportedly kept under wraps because De Niro was allowed to list the case as Anonymous v. Anonymous, a tactic typically used by legal officials to protect the "health and welfare" of any children involved.
The request was granted on 17 December (18), four days after the 75-year-old lodged divorce papers and requested visitation with young Helen, who was born via a surrogate. De Niro and Hightower, 63, are due in court for their first custody hearing next week, begs January 28.
The former couple also shares son Elliot, 20.
In his statement confirming the end of the marriage, De Niro heaped praise on his wife's parenting skills, as they vowed to continue raising their children together.
"I honour Grace as a wonderful mother and ask for privacy and respect from all as we proceed to develop our roles as partners in parenting," he shared at the time.
It's not De Niro and Hightower's first time in divorce court - the screen star previously moved to end their then-12-year marriage in 1999, sparking a custody dispute over their son. They reconciled and renewed their vows in November, 2004.
In addition to his two kids with Grace, De Niro is also father to daughter Drena, 47, and 43-year-old son Raphael from his previous marriage to Diahnne Abbott, and twin sons Julian and Aaron, 23, with actress Toukie Smith.