How Should the Law Treat Couples Who Live Apart Together?

29 Child & Family Law Quarterly 335

Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 17-43

36 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2017 Last revised: 9 Mar 2018

Date Written: October 5, 2017


Committed couples who do not share a residence, commonly called ‘LATs’ (for Living Apart Together), have been little studied by family law scholars in the United States. After describing the literature on this phenomenon by British, European, Canadian, and Australian scholars, this article provides new data about LATs in the US. It presents the results of two new surveys, one of respondents in New York State and one US-wide study, along with information gleaned from qualitative interviews of LATs. These data show that LATs are as prevalent in the US as elsewhere and provide information about their lifestyle, their reasons for living apart, their economic relationships, and the family-like functions LATs undertake for each another. The article then discusses whether the US legal system should recognize LAT relationships and, if so, for what purposes, concluding that certain legal rights should be extended to LATs, limiting them in most instances to those designed to aid their mutual caretaking, not those premised on economic interdependence.

Keywords: LAT's, couples, relationships, legal rights, cohabitation, economics, job market, law, race, household income, education, social ideology, age

Suggested Citation

Bowman, Cynthia Grant, How Should the Law Treat Couples Who Live Apart Together? (October 5, 2017). 29 Child & Family Law Quarterly 335; Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 17-43. Available at SSRN:

Cynthia Grant Bowman (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

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