After years of keeping her marriage secret, Janet Jackson is being sued for divorce by songwriter/director Rene Elizondo, who filed papers Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court. The petition for divorce, citing “irreconcilable differences,” states that the surreptitious couple has been married since March 31, 1991, was separated in January 1999 and has no children.
Battling rumors that the couple had eloped, Jackson sought to hide the marriage, she said in a statement released Wednesday, “to have a normal family life . . . Since I was a child, my personal life has been lived in the public eye,” she said. “At times, this has been very difficult. I hope my fans will understand.”
The thirty-four-year-old singer’s relationship with Elizondo wasn’t entirely private, though. Elizondo worked with Jackson for fifteen years, co-writing thirty-seven of Jackson’s songs (most notably on 1997’s The Velvet Rope) and directing several of her videos. His hands are also the ones covering her breasts on her infamous topless Rolling Stone cover.
Though the pair had a prenuptial agreement, Elizondo is now challenging the agreement’s validity and provisions, his attorney Manley Freid said. “We don’t have a set figure we’re seeking,” Freid said. “We don’t have a full financial picture yet. But Rene is not looking to nickel and dime Janet to get what he’s entitled under the law.”
The law office of Kaufman and Young in Beverly Hills, which represents Jackson, refused to respond to inquiries, instead playing a recording that stated the firm has a “longstanding policy” to “provide no information about any client or former client to the press.”
Though the couple once shared a home in San Diego — where the wedding itself took place — Jackson reportedly purchased a new home in West Los Angeles shortly after the separation. The two had shared their income during the marriage, but Elizondo reportedly has no savings of his own.
This was not Jackson’s first marriage. Her 1984 union with R&B singer James DeBarge — which took place when she was eighteen — was annulled after only a few months.