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Jada and Will Smith — why divorce isn’t the only option when a relationship breaks down

AuthorsCara Nuttall

Jada and Will Smith why divorce isnt the only option when a relationship breaks down

While most marriages are rarely straightforward, some are more complex than others — and the marriage between Jada Pinkett and Will Smith has often been subject to global speculation and controversy.

This week, their marriage has taken another unexpected twist, with Jada stating in press interviews that the pair have been separated for seven years, despite having appeared together in public on many occasions over that time. Some reports suggest that Jada claims the pair will never divorce — no matter the state of their relationship.

Here, Partner and family law specialist Cara Nuttall explores why — for some couples — divorce isn’t the preferred option when their relationship breaks down.


Keep my divorce out of your mouth

There is no set way for a marriage to end (or endure). Whether it’s Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘conscious uncoupling’ or the long-running courtroom battles of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, there are many routes that couples can take to end a marriage.

However, while attention is often given to how a divorce takes place, it’s important to remember that a legal divorce isn’t always the best or most appropriate option.

There are a range of reasons why people may not want a divorce. For some, this is an emotional decision — but for others, there may be financial, religious or cultural reasons. I have also seen clients who simply didn’t want to undertake the administrative process.


Alternatives to divorce

There is nothing to say that if a relationship comes to an end, there must be a divorce.

Some people feel that an informal separation (living apart, with separate finances) is sufficient when their relationship breaks down.

For others, a more formal separation is the right outcome, with the arrangements negotiated and recorded in a ‘deed of separation’.

A more formal option still is a ‘judicial separation’. While this has many procedural similarities to a divorce and can regulate financial arrangements, it doesn’t legally end the marriage.


Couples need to make an informed decision

The most important thing is for couples to understand the practical differences of each option and the effects on their financial rights and obligations into the future.

Many people are surprised to learn that an agreement — even in writing — is not, in itself, enforceable. Likewise, financial claims and obligations don’t automatically end at separation.

What matters is that each couple decides what works for them as part of an informed decision — understanding the emotional, procedural, financial and legal implications of each option before deciding which path to take.

While many people associate divorce lawyers with courtroom battles, the reality is that this doesn’t have to be the case. Many family lawyers are just as used to (and happy to) explain the available options as they are to commencing legal proceedings.

Sometimes, well-placed advice can avoid any legal dispute — rather than trigger it.

Want to know more about your options? Talk to our award-winning family law team.

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