For California couples living in an unhappy marriage, divorcing might feel like their only option. However, separation is a viable alternative to the divorce process and may even be helpful for those who are on the fence about the future of their relationship. Here are few things individuals should keep in mind when considering which process to pursue.

The biggest difference between a divorce and a legal separation is that in the latter couples remain married. However, there are many other differences to consider as well. In a legal separation, individuals can still keep their health care and even certain Social Security benefits that they might otherwise have to give up in a divorce. Reconciliation is also an option couples can keep on the table during a separation, while divorce is a permanent process.

The two processes share some similarities, too. Parents will usually establish child custody arrangements during both divorce and separation. Even post-divorce payments such as alimony and child support have equivalents during separation. Couples will also have to address the division of marital property regardless of whether they are going through a divorce or legally separating.

There are many more nuanced differences and similarities when it comes to divorce and legal separation. Whether a couple in California chooses to pursue one process over the other is largely up to their personal feelings and needs. For those who are unsure about the future of their marriage, legal separation can be a useful trial period that also provides certain family law protections. Others may already know what they want, and pursue divorce instead.