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OTRC: Christopher Meloni's rep confirms the actor is leaving 'Law & Order: Special Victims Unit'

Christopher Meloni appears in a promotional photo for 'Law & Order: SVU' season 12. (NBC)

A spokesperson for actor Christopher Meloni, who plays Detective Elliot Stabler on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," has confirmed that the actor will not return on the 13th season of the show.

"It is true," the actor's spokesperson said. "12 very happy years with the show. On to the next chapter."

NBC has not officially commented on the matter.

Meloni has appeared opposite Mariska Hargitay, who plays Detective Olivia Benson on the show, for 12 seasons since the show began in 1999.

Previously, the actor had been in contract negotiations with the network to continue his role on the show. Hargitay inked her deal with the network in early May, however, the actress will be scaling back her role on the show.

Hargitay will still make $385,000 an episode and for 13 episodes her character will continue in her detective role. After that Detective Benson will then be promoted to a supervisor position with a new female detective hired on to take her place.

She told People magazine recently, "I'm so madly in love and married to my show." She adds, "But it's been very difficult for me with two kids, so what I wanted this year in terms of my deal was lifestyle issues ... I needed more time with my kids. So I will be working a little bit less and eventually getting a little promotion, so we are going to bring on a new detective."

Hargitay, 47, and her husband Peter Hermann, a 43-year-old actor, are also parents to son August, who is 4. Hargitay revealed in April she and her husband adopted the girl, who was born in the United States.

Jennifer Love Hewitt has been named in a few reports as a candidate for the new detective role. Hewitt guest starred on the show in a November episode this season playing a rape victim.

Meloni's move from the show singles a change in the "Law & Order" franchise which saw the original show get the ax in 2010. The show aired its final episode exactly a year ago, on May 24, 2010. "Law & Order: Los Angeles" was canceled by NBC last week and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" is set to end this year after ten seasons. In addition to Meloni's exit, longtime executive producer/showrunner Neal Baer also left the show at the end of the 12th season.

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