It was the summer of the celebrity divorce: Between June and September, celebs ranging from Kevin Costner and Christine Baumgartner to Britney Spears and Sam Asghari very publicly called it quits. But just recently this fall, we got news of two celebrity separations, not divorces: Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith and Meryl Streep and her husband Don Gummer.
In the case of Will and Jada, they’ve been married since 1997—over 25 years. But as revealed in Jada’s memoir, Worthy, the pair have been separated (though not legally divorced) for almost seven years. As Jada described it to Hoda Kotb in her now-famous Today show interview, “Why it fractured—that’s a lot of things. I think by the time we got to 2016, we were just exhausted with trying.”
Not long after, another equally high-profile Hollywood power couple confirmed a similar split: Meryl and Don had been together for over 40 years when they decided to separate—but not divorce—in 2017. The statement for Streep explained it like this: “Don Gummer and Meryl Streep have been separated for more than six years, and while they will always care for each other, they have chosen lives apart.”
Complaints about a lack of transparency certainly surfaced (Jada even went back on Today to defend her choice to stay private about their split), but so did a more practical question: For the average couple considering a split, what are the merits of separating vs. divorcing, especially when finances aren’t an issue? We asked an expert.