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Living Apart Together: Legal Protections for a New Form of Family

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Argues for legal reforms to protect couples who live apart but perform many of the functions of a family

Living Apart Together is an in-depth look at a new way of being a couple and "doing family"--living apart together (LAT)--in which committed couples maintain separate residences and finances. In Bowman's own 2016 national survey, 9% of respondents reported maintaining committed relationships while living apart, typically spending the weekend together, socializing together, taking vacations together, and looking after one another in illness, but maintaining financial independence. The term LAT stems from Europe, where this manner of coupledom has been extensively studied; however, it has gone virtually unnoticed in the United States.

Living Apart Together aims to remedy this oversight by presenting original research derived from both randomized surveys and qualitative interviews. Beginning with the large body of social science literature from outside the US, Cynthia Bowman examines the prevalence of this lifestyle, the demographics of people who live apart, their reasons for doing so, and how these individuals manage finances, care during illness, and many other aspects of family life. She focuses in particular detail on three key demographics--women, gay men, and the elderly--and how individuals from these groups engage in LAT behavior. She finds that while these living arrangements are more common than previously believed, there are virtually no legal protections for the people involved. Bowman concludes by proposing a number of legal reforms to support the caregiving functions LAT partners perform for each other. Living Apart Together makes an important case for formal recognition of this growing but largely overlooked family structure.

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