More than two years after filing for divorce, the battle between Denise Richards and Charlie Sheen has only become more bitter.
Richards, 37, and Sheen, 42, have been fighting over the custody of their daughters, Lola, 2, and Sam, 3, since April 2006. Sometimes they praise each other's parenting to the press. Other times they accuse each other of sending vile e-mails and indulging in underage porn.
Much of their mud has been slung through the media, which is now playing an even bigger role in their saga. "It's Complicated," Richards' reality show about the trials and tribulations of parenting in Hollywood, premiered last night on E!.
"She is out there bringing the issues up again by appearing on TV; he should understand at this point that any communication with her has a risk of going public and that's true for her too," said Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred. "Obviously, it's the divorce from hell. This is divorce wars, and I hope the children are not the losers."
On the level of Paul McCartney versus Heather Mills and Mick Jagger versus Jerry Hall, the Sheen-Richards headlines have run the gamut from sad to malicious to just plain weird. Sheen accused Richards of asking for his sperm; Richards called said sperm "prostitute-tranny infested." Sheen claimed Richards calls him for no reason; Richards said Sheen sent her a text message telling her to "get cancer" and "rot in hell."
It's one of Hollywood's ugliest divorces, and regardless of the outcome, it's tough to see how either party will emerge the winner. According to Lynn Toler, the judge who presides over "Divorce Court," Richards and Sheen are equally in the wrong and there's only one thing for them to do.
"Clearly they both should shut up," she said. "If someone says something to you, no matter what it is, you don't win by responding. If one person keeps spouting off and the other person keeps being quiet -- as Kevin Federline did with Britney Spears -- then that other person can stay cool, calm and collected long enough for the situation to turn around."
"It's just kind of silly if you allow the other person to goad you into saying or doing something that doesn't do you or your kids any good," she continued. "It's like, 'He hit me first mommy.' It's just not relevant."
From an etiquette standpoint too, they both lost a long time ago.
"They both look pretty bad considering they've said the things they said out in public," said Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of etiquette guru Emily Post and author of "How Do You Work This Life Thing?" The best thing the two of them can do is have the same united front to the public and say whatever they want to in private. They can be downright nasty and dirty but they need to keep that behind closed doors."
Even if Richards attacks Sheen via the press or vice-versa, in Post's book, it's wrong for the wounded party to retaliate by spreading more dirt.
"It's just like what you tell your kids if they're dealing with a bully on the playground," she said. "It's never acceptable to fight back."
But fight they do. Below, a blow-by-blow account of Sheen and Richards' more than two-year-long battle:
April 19, 2006: Richards files for divorce from Sheen, alleging he's unstable, violent, addicted to gambling and prostitutes, and visits pornographic Web sites featuring young men and girls who appear to be underage. She also claims Sheen assaulted her and threatened her life during a 2005 incident at her Los Angeles home.
April 21, 2006: An L.A. judge orders Sheen to stay at least 300 feet from Richards, her home, her car and their two daughters, except during supervised visits with the kids.
April 23, 2006: In response to Richards' filing, Sheen issues a statement, saying, "Obviously, what has taken place is vile, is unconscionable, is without merit, is a transparent and immature smear campaign. She's claiming certain things. It's baseless."
May 12, 2006: Richards and Sheen take a break from mudslinging and agree to a temporary child custody settlement. "Denise and Charlie are working with the courts to privately resolve their differences regarding their children," the pair said in a joint statement. "They hope to resolve this matter outside the public forum and will both continue to make every effort in this regard."
June 8, 2006: Despite their amicable custody agreement, the couples' lawyers mutually agree to extend her restraining order against him.
June 2006: Sheen and Richards are spotted out and about with their new partners. He hooks up with real estate investor Brooke Mueller; she goes out with former friend Heather Locklear's rocker ex, Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora.
July 14, 2006: Once again, Richards' restraining order against Sheen is extended.
Aug. 15, 2006: Sheen and Richards make peace. Though their divorce remains unfinalized, Sheen's attorney releases a statement saying, "Both parties have amicably resolved any outstanding issues on an interim basis."
Aug. 16, 2006: Richards opens up about the divorce to Harper's Bazaar, saying, "I've never done drugs, never been around a prostitute, never known any porn stars. I couldn't even fathom that lifestyle. I grew up in Illinois, not L.A. He told me that was in the past, and I believed him." Of the filing, she says, "I wasn't trying to be vindictive and to bring him down. It was humiliating for me to have a lot of that out there."
Nov. 4, 2006: During an appearance on her talk show, Sheen tells Ellen DeGeneres that he and Richards are on good terms. "We're trying to put all that nonsense aside and just do what's right for the children and just be good responsible parents," he says. Sheen also says he's happy Richards is with Sambora, "somebody decent and smart and a good parent to be around your children."
Nov. 30, 2006: Though their divorce can't be completed until they resolve their child custody issues, Sheen and Richards are free to legally marry other people.
July 10, 2007: Sheen and Mueller get engaged, sealing the deal with a $500,000 diamond ring.
July 11, 2007: Richards congratulates the happy couple. "I am genuinely happy for the two of them," she tells People magazine. "In fact, I sent them flowers to congratulate them both. I've spent time with her, and my girls really like her. That's all that matters to me."
Aug. 6, 2007: After months of warmth, Sheen and Richards' relationship turns cold. He files court papers requesting more visitation rights with his two kids and tells "Entertainment Tonight," "What I am doing is pursuing a relationship with my daughters that is unpolluted." In his filing, Sheen requests input on choosing nannies for his children. He also claims that Richards makes "unnecessary phone calls to me and my home" and asks the court to forbid calls between them except in emergencies.
Aug. 7, 2007: Sheen tells "Entertainment Tonight" that Richards wants his sperm. He alleges she sent the following e-mail to his fiance April 3, 2007, provided to ABCNEWS.com by Sheen's representative:
Dear Brooke, I don't want to have a baby with Charlie. I am having a baby in the next year. By myself ... my girlfriend suggested Charlie be the donor. So, I did bring this up to him. There are so many couples having unhealthy children. Charlie and I have very beautiful healthy children together. I was strictly looking for a sperm donor if it's any of your business. If it were him, I said we would sign a document that he couldn't come after me and I couldn't come after him. ... This wasn't to have sex with him, it was him donating. ... That's it. I didn't want him to tell you at this time because it was something very personal that I'm doing myself.
Asked on "Entertainment Tonight" if he would take this alleged offer from Richards seriously, Sheen replies, "I would sooner, in exactly what I'm wearing, walk on the surface of the moon. Does that answer it?"
Aug. 27, 2007: Sheen tells People magazine that his weekend with his fiancee and his kids was "sullied by one of [Richards'] spies" -- aka a court-ordered escort.
Sept. 19, 2007: Richards files documents seeking "the assistance of the court to obtain orders to protect her children" from Sheen, according to her attorney. She accuses Sheen of "an attraction to underage women," providing numerous printouts of porn Web sites he allegedly visited during their marriage. She also claims Sheen's engagement to Mueller is nothing more than a publicity stunt, based on her e-mail correspondence with Mueller. Sheen lashes out at Richards in response, saying she "behaves as though she owns our children. She does not. A day of legal reckoning for her is fast approaching."
Sept. 21, 2007: Sheen's fiancee jumps into the fray, accusing Richards of twisting the truth. Mueller tells People magazine that Richards "begged [she and Sheen] on a few different occasions not to tell the girls we were engaged." Mueller also says Richards edited her e-mails in court filings. "It's a shame that Denise conveniently edited my e-mail correspondence to serve her own interests," Mueller tells People. "She would be both mortified and embarrassed if I released any one of her 40 e-mails to me. But she knows my character and humanity and knows that I would never do such a thing." She goes on to say that Richards' accusations of Sheen's inappropriate conduct and attraction to underage women are "laughable at best."
Sept. 24, 2007: Sheen releases a statement saying the FBI is aware of Richards' child porn allegations against him and has taken no action. "The FBI was aware of these issues," Sheen states. "I provided them with every computer I owned. The computers were returned two weeks later. Haven't heard from them since. Period. The end."
January 2008: Shortly after Richards' gets the green light for her E! reality show, Sheen takes her to court to try to prevent her from including their daughters in the series. He fails.
Feb. 28, 2008: Sheen lashes out against Richards' show, telling People magazine, "I think we should all just boycott the damn thing!"
May 19, 2008: During an interview to promote her upcoming show, Richards tells Larry King, "I have nothing against Charlie's sperm. I have two wonderful children, but I don't want anymore of it. He said that I wanted his sperm as a donor for a third child. I can get it elsewhere."
May 21, 2008: In response to Richards' comments, Sheen releases the April 3, 2007, e-mail and the following statement: "I will no longer sit back and be egregiously painted as a liar. If any proof can be established that these are not in fact her words and statements verbatim, I openly invite her and would even encourage Ms. Richards to sue me in a court of law. She had an opportunity to tell the truth. She did not. Here is the proof."
May 23, 2008: Richards shoots back at Sheen, telling the New York Post, "I don't want Charlie's prostitute-tranny infested sperm. I have two beautiful kids. We'll leave it at that." She also claims Sheen sent her a text message the previous week saying, "I hope you and your worthless retarded father get cancer and join your stupid mom. Rot in hell you [bleeping] whore." (Richards' mom died of cancer in January.) "This is what I deal with on a weekly basis," she told the Post.
Sheen's representative would neither confirm or deny the text message, saying only, "If that text was sent by him -- who made it public? He didn't make that public. He might have said it, but he didn't make it public. And there's a huge distinction between something someone said and something someone made public."
In addition, the representative told ABCNEWS.com that he's going to get a "computer DNA expert" to prove on live television that Richards did indeed e-mail Mueller asking for Sheen's sperm.