Madonna and Guy Ritchie have announced their divorce after seven years of marriage.

The couple's spokeswoman confirmed the split in a statement issued to the Associated Press news agency.

Media speculation of the pair's impending separation had increased in recent months, with rumours of an affair between the Material Girl and New York Yankees player Alex Rodriguez.

Madonna even went to the lengths of issuing a statement rubbishing reports of the state of her marriage, but the celebrity couple's divorce has now been confirmed.

It was believed the pair would announce their separation when Madonna's Sticky and Sweet world tour finishes in November but a series of arguments has reportedly now brought their divorce forward.

"Madonna and Guy have been spending months trying to make the marriage work," the Sun newspaper's showbiz editor Gordon Smart told Sky News.

"I think they have reached the point now where there's no way they can repair the damage that's been done.

"I think the last few weeks in particular, they have had so many arguments it's just come to the stage where they have decided to finish with the pretence."

In her statement of denial in July, Madonna urged fans to take media reports with a pinch of salt.

"I have learned over the years not to take accusations and the many false reports about me very seriously," she explained.

"I also appreciate how fiction and fact seem to be perceived as one and the same by people who read both newspapers and the internet."

Madonna and Ritchie are expected to undergo private divorce proceedings, as opposed to the high-profile split of another celebrity couple, Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills.

15/10/2008 16:10:48