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Jon & Kate Plus The Apocalypse

Jon & Kate Gosselin
AP
Jon & Kate Gosselin

It's hard to walk away from a gold mine, but Discovery Communications' TLC is doing just that. After more than ten million viewers tuned in this week to learn that Jon & Kate Gosselin were divorcing, the show is going on hiatus until August, following a retrospective next week.

How long have the Gosselins been estranged? What did TLC know and when did it know it?

There was quite an uproar yesterday when the Associated Press reported that Kate Gosselin indicated in her divorce filing that the couple has lived separate and apart for at least two years. This, if true, would constitute a fraud--albeit legal--on viewers. We all know that reality TV isn't all that real, and reality television programs do not operate under the auspices of news divisions. But if the Gosselins really have been living apart for at least two years, even if in separate beds, viewers have been sorely misled.

Leave it to Harvey Levin to set the record straight. Levin, a lawyer, heads up TMZ, which reported that Kate Gosselin checked all the boxes she could while filing for divorce.

"There are two grounds for a no fault divorce in Pennsylvania," TMZ writes, saying the first option is waiting 90 days after papers have been served, and if both parties agree the marriage is "irretrievably broken" the divorce goes forward. "And there's a second option -- that they have lived separate and apart for 2 years. But that doesn't mean they've actually been separated for that long. It means she must wait 2 years from the moment she considered the marriage kaput and began living separately (if only in different bedrooms)."

TMZ says Kate Gosselin checked both boxes in case the 90-day option doesn't work out because her husband "may not agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken". By checking the box regarding two years, she's "hedging her bets".

Is this a legal document that one signs under penalty of perjury? Is she lying? "Ultimately, she would have to prove to the judge when she considered herself separate from Jon."

I spoke with TLC which says it won't comment on how long the Gosselins have actually been separated, only that it has been a recent development.

As for what is at stake financially in the divorce, the Examiner.com in Los Angeles estimates the couple's net worth is somewhere around $10 million, including the reported $75,000 an episode they get paid by TLC. The Gosselins currently share a mansion reported to be worth $1.3 million, and they are still trying to sell their original home for $325,000.

By the way, the AP later corrected its original story about a two-year separation to mirror TMZ's analysis. Lisa de Moraes of the Washington Post commented, "Is it the first sign of the apocalypse that TMZ appears to be the voice of reason and the Associated Press the hysteric?"

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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