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Sara Kapfer and Cuba Gooding Jr.: Divorcing or Separating?

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. on April 24, 2014 | Last updated on December 13, 2021

Another one bites the dust: Sara Kapfer has filed for separation from actor Cuba Gooding Jr. after 20 years of marriage.

Kapfer is citing "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for the split and is asking for joint legal and physical custody of their three kids, according to TMZ. Although some news sources are reporting that Kapfer is filing for divorce, TMZ is reporting that she filed for separation.

So what's the difference between separation and divorce?

What Does Separation Mean?

There are two types of separation: informal separation and legal separation. Informal separation is the more common and occurs when a married couple decides to split up and live apart for the time being. If a couple is choosing an informal separation, there's no need to go to court to change their legal status, but it is important to remember that separation date if they plan to get a divorce in the future. When dividing up marital property in a divorce, all property acquired after the date of separation is usually considered separate property.

On the other hand, a legal separation is a court-approved separation that defines the couples' rights and obligations, but doesn't permanently end the marriage. Legal separation works for couples who don't want to get divorced, but still want to live apart and have issues like child custody and property division clarified by the court. Since legally separated couples aren't divorced, they still enjoy the same tax incentives of married couples.

How Divorce is Different

Contrary to the media's popular belief, separation and divorce are not interchangeable terms in the legal world. Unlike legal separation, a divorce ends a marriage. So until a couple is divorced, they won't be able to marry anyone else.

Like legal separation, divorce will result in the division of property and clarifying child support and alimony terms. However, there's no "take backs" when it comes to a divorce. Divorced couples need to get married again to each other in order to be considered a married couple. Legally separated couples don't need to marry each other again in order to reconcile.

So if Kapfer did file for legal separation rather than divorce, it could mean that she just needs some time away from the relationship but sees a reconciliation with Gooding Jr. down the road.

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