Eddie Murphy

No Joke

UPDATED 08/22/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/22/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT

Back in 1997, people wondered how Nicole Murphy would react when L.A. police pulled her husband, Eddie, over for picking up a transvestite prostitute in his SUV (Murphy was not charged and insisted that he was just giving the man a lift). The actor said he had no doubts that his marriage was strong enough to survive the scandal. Apparently he was right. Over the next eight years, the two stuck by one another as Eddie retooled his image from raunchy comedian to family-friendly star of Shrek and Dr. Dolittle.

Which made it all the more surprising when, on Aug. 5, Nicole filed for divorce. Married for 12 years, the two have been separated since July 14. They are keeping mum on reasons for the split, but a relative of Nicole's says there is no third party involved: "It's nothing like that." Eddie, 44, said in a statement. "The welfare of our children is our main concern. Their best interest is our first priority." And so far, says Eddie's brother Charlie, the family—including Bria, 15, Myles, 12, Shayne, 10, Zola, 5, and Bella, 3—"is fine." Eddie "is a wonderful father," says Dolittle producer John Davis.

Nicole, 37, has petitioned an L.A. court to decide how to divide the pair's property, which includes Bubble Hill, a 32-room, 25,000-sq.-ft. mansion in Englewood, N.J., currently on the market for $27 million. The former model is also asking for spousal support, child support and primary custody of the children. Those close to the couple say that they don't expect a messy divorce. "They're going to work everything out," says Nicole's relative. "They'll be just fine."

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