Chris Rock's Marital Split 'A Long Time Coming,' Source Close to the Couple Tells PEOPLE
updated 12/29/2014 AT 12:00 PM EST
•originally published 12/28/2014 AT 03:05 PM EST
"After much contemplation and 19 years of marriage, Chris and I have decided to go our separate ways," Malaak Compton-Rock, a philanthropist and founder of the nonprofit styleWorks, said in a statement Sunday. "Being fortunate enough to lead a life of service by working with those most vulnerable makes me well aware of life's blessings, even when faced with difficulties.
"While recognizing that this is a significant change, my children remain at the center of my life and their well-being is my top priority. It is in this spirit that I sincerely ask that their privacy and the privacy of our family be respected during this transition in our lives."
Rock's attorney, Robert S. Cohen, confirmed the couple have split.
"Chris Rock has filed for divorce from his wife, Malaak," Cohen said in a statement. "This is a personal matter and Chris requests privacy as he and Malaak work through this process and focus on their family.”
A source close to the couple tells PEOPLE: "This was a long time coming. Chris has known it wasn't salvageable for a while. He was the one to file because he knew it was time to just move forward already."
The Top Five star, 49, wed Compton-Rock, 45, in 1996. They live in Alpine, New Jersey, with their two daughters together, Lola Simone, 12, and Zahra Savannah, 10.
In 2010, the couple shot down claims that Rock had fathered another child out of wedlock. Three years earlier, the stars defended their "happy" relationship amid divorce speculation.
"The best part is just having a partner," Rock said in 2007 of being married. "There is no real worst part. I'm not going to say there's a worst part. I mean, I'm a comedian – comedians like to work alone. So maybe I'm not the ideal guy to be married to, in that sense."
But more recently, Rock has spoken about how his family inspires his work.
"In my normal life, I'm just with my kids most of the time," he told PEOPLE in December. "I'm a writer at heart. Writing is a nerd job. There's nothing cool about writing. Hemingway, I don't care who it is."
And of his 2012 flop What to Expect When You're Expecting, he told PEOPLE, "It wasn't the best movie, but I saw the book on my wife's nightstand for 10 years! I just thought, 'Maybe this could be a hit. Somebody's going to like this movie.' "