Grace Hightower

The veteran award-winning American actor, producer, and director, Robert De Niro, has been married twice, first to Diahnne Abbott and then to Grace Hightower. While his marriage to Diahnne was significant, it is his marriage to Grace that defines his marital life, spanning more than twenty years.

Yet, throughout the time she was the wife of one of the greatest actors of modern history, she stayed away from the limelight. The American philanthropist had two children with the veteran actor and was stepmother to children from his previous relationships.

Grace Hightower Met Robert De Niro While Working In a Restaurant

Hightower was never a member of the entertainment industry and yet become the wife of one of its most prominent faces. Their unexpected meeting happened at Mr. Chow in 1987, an upscale London Chinese restaurant that several celebrities visited at the time. De Niro had recently separated from his first wife, Diahnne Abbott.

At Mr. Chow, Grace worked as a hostess, part of a long list of modest jobs that had seen her work as a flight attendant and mutual fund trader. Several shared jokes and a degree of persuasion after, the two began a relationship.

Grace Hightower
image source

According to her, in the beginning, she had no idea who he was, and she swatted his advances. However, after learning who he was, Grace became more amenable.

Grace Hightower and De Niro dated for a decade before walking down the aisle in 1997. They held the wedding at De Niro’s home in Marbletown, starting a marital journey that would span 21 years.

Insight Into The Family Life They Had

One year into saying ‘I Do’, Grace Hightower and Robert De Niro welcomed their first child, a son named Elliot. Grace was 42 years old when she gave birth to the couple’s first child on March 18, 1998, in New York City.

Thirteen years after, when a lot of water had passed under their marital bridge, Grace and Robert gave birth to their second child, this time via a surrogate. Their second child is a daughter named Helen Grace and she was born in 2011.

Grace, De Niro, and Elliot: image source

Their first child is autistic. Grace and Robert kept it secret for years until March 2016. While defending the inclusion of the controversial documentary, Vaxxed, at the Tribeca Film Festival, he revealed his son was on the autism spectrum. He claimed the documentary, which suggested a link between autism and vaccinations, piqued his interest because of his personal experience with Elliot.

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Following her marriage to De Niro in 1997, Grace Hightower officially became the stepmother to four children from Robert’s past relationships with two women. The first was his relationship with Diahnne Abbott, a marriage that spanned twelve years.

The marriage produced a son, Raphael De Niro, and he adopted Diahnne’s daughter, Drena De Niro, from a previous relationship. A relationship with the American model, Toukie Smith, resulted in the birth of two children, twins Julian and Aaron De Niro, conceived by in vitro fertilization and delivered by a surrogate in 1995.

Raphael, the eldest of the De Niro children, briefly worked as an actor before he took up a career in New York real estate. Drena is an actress and filmmaker, with several roles in her filmography. The twins have a close relationship with their father but have zero public footprints.

The Couple’s 2018 Separation Was Their Second Attempt

News of their divorce in 2018 after 21 years of marriage came as a shock and was met with disappointment. However, it was not the first time the two parted ways. De Niro filed for a divorce in 1999, about a year after the birth of their first child. Grace accused him of infidelity and substance abuse, while Robert claimed she had a violent temper.

Two years after filing, De Niro sued for custody of their son, after one year of co-parenting. The judge who heard their case forced them to visit a mental health expert before their next court date. The delay eventually led to a reconciliation.

Grace Hightower and De Niro renewed their vows in 2004, this time, at their upstate home in New York in front of friends. In attendance were famous names like Meryl Streep, Tom Brokaw, and Martin Scorsese.

Earlier in their relationship and before things got serious, the two broke up. During this period, Robert dated the model and restauranteur, Toukie Smith. After they broke up, De Niro returned to Grace, and they developed a stronger relationship.

What Led to The End of Their Marriage?

There was a lot more insight into their relationship and marriage in the past. In recent years, however, things have quietened. Following the separation in 2018, rumors began to swirl about the exact cause of their divorce.

While most chalked it up to time and fate, some have a different theory. It has been said that their respective political inclination was a significant contributing factor.

While De Niro is a known and vocal critic of President Donald Trump, Grace Hightower is reportedly a supporter of the 45th US president. Neither party has confirmed this rumor, and have instead, painted a picture of an amicable breakup.

Grace Hightower and De Niro Fought Over Custody of Helen

Of the two children born to Grace and De Niro, only Helen was yet a legal adult. As a result, following her parents’ divorce, she became the subject of a custody battle. News of their custody battle broke in January 2019, less than three months after their reported separation in November 2018.

The custody battle lasted a year, before concluding in February 2020. After three hours of negotiations behind closed doors on Valentine’s Day, the couple finally found a resolution.

Grace Hightower
Grace and De Niro after ending their custody battle: image source

On the day, both lawyers of the couple were present, along with Pamela Sloane, the lawyer for their seven-year-old daughter. All three signed the 31-page custody agreement in the presence of the presiding judge. As of July 2020, the exact terms of the custody arrangement remain undisclosed, and the divorce is yet to be completed.

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