Motivated by applications in graph drawing and information visualization, we examine the planar split thickness of a graph, that is, the smallest k such that the graph is k-splittable into a planar graph. A k-split operation substitutes a vertex v by at most k new vertices such that each neighbor of v is connected to at least one of the new vertices.
We first examine the planar split thickness of complete graphs, complete bipartite graphs, multipartite graphs, bounded degree graphs, and genus-1 graphs. We then prove that it is NP-hard to recognize graphs that are 2-splittable into a planar graph, and show that one can approximate the planar split thickness of a graph within a constant factor. If the treewidth is bounded, then we can even verify k-splittability in linear time, for a constant k.