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How To Live Apart Together and Avoid Legal Hurdles

By Catherine Hodder, Esq. | Last updated on

Married couples sometimes live apart due to their careers. However, there is a new trend of married couples choosing to live independently for reasons other than economic necessity.

What Is Living Apart Together?

The term living apart together (LAT) refers to couples in an "intimate" relationship who choose to live separately for financial, personal, or other various reasons.

This concept is nothing new to partners who live separately due to work obligations or military deployment. However, it is gaining traction among married couples who desire a committed relationship but also want separate residences and perhaps a bit more independence.

How Did LAT Start?

As the overall population of married people declined from 2000 to 2019, there was a 25% increase in married couples living apart during that period. In 2022, there are estimates that almost 3% of married Americans choose to live apart together.

And it is on the rise for unmarried couples who want a romantic relationship while maintaining independent living arrangements. They recognize the benefits marriage provides, like inheritance rights and health insurance coverage, but they wish to live separately.

Some claim that post-pandemic, women realized they shoulder more caretaking duties than their male counterparts. They reject traditional roles and expectations and seek independence while maintaining a long-term relationship.

Others maintain that living together apart saved their relationship. By living apart, they could have their own space, avoid constant fighting, and give their relationship time to heal. Some opt to live together apart to prevent divorce, especially if they have young children.

Who Is Living Apart Together?

Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Helena Bonham Carter have famously lived apart from their significant others. But it is getting more attention from cohabitating couples who now want separate addresses. Especially after the COVID-19 lockdown, couples may attempt a LAT relationship for their own well-being.

And living apart together is not just a phenomenon among one age group. In fact, LAT is on the rise as an option for older adults. Older adults have established households and do not see the need to consolidate. They desire companionship but do not want to become each other's caretakers. There is especially a sentiment among older women that they don't want to become the primary caregiver for their partner.

LAT also benefits couples who do not want to divorce but need time away from one another to preserve their relationship. But if the relationship can't survive an LAT period, the time apart may be classified as part of a separation period, which is sometimes required before a divorce. In many states, couples must live apart for six months to two years before filing for divorce. If your spouse wants a divorce, it may speed up the process.

Benefits of LAT

Couples who live apart together say there are many advantages to this arrangement, such as:

  • Independence: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, many couples are getting married later in life (if at all). Because each partner has their own personal space, keeping separate households allows the partners to maintain their independence. And married couples find they benefit from additional alone time than they would if they lived together.
  • Ability to live where you want: Additionally, couples with established careers in different cities may pursue a long-distance relationship, so one partner doesn't have to move or give up their job or own home for the other partner.
  • Adds interest to the relationship: Those living apart together report that their love life improved, and it seems as though they are dating again. The partners do not feel they take each other for granted. Because they spend less time together, they have less time for conflict or arguments.

And this arrangement may work for married couples with children from prior relationships. Parents can maintain separate homes for their own children, so they don't have to uproot their kids.

Disadvantages of LAT

However, living apart together does have some drawbacks:

  • Jealousy and insecurity: Some partners may not be on the same page about living apart together and may take the opportunity to explore other relationships. Other people may feel their partner is less committed to their relationship than they are.
  • Costs: Maintaining separate homes is more costly than one. If you eventually divorce and both residences are jointly owned, there will be more property to divide.
  • Loneliness: While there is the advantage of independence, it can also cause loneliness. If you do not live close to one another, you may miss out on events you can attend together.
  • Not socially acceptable: While there are a growing number of LAT couples, it is not commonplace. People outside your relationship (family, friends, neighbors, etc.) may view your choice as if something is wrong with your relationship.

How To Avoid Problems With Living Apart Together

There are some things you should do before making a living apart together arrangement:

  • Define the relationship: Determine how your relationship will work when you spend time together and when you are apart. Agree on what living apart together means for you and your partner. Is it a way to improve or keep your relationship strong, or is it a step toward legal separation or divorce?
  • Plan for emergencies: If you live apart and your significant other is injured or incapacitated, you may be unable to help them with their health care and finances. For example, if they were suddenly hospitalized, a doctor or hospital may only talk with you if you are their agent in a health care power of attorney. This could be the same for a financial power of attorney arrangement. As part of your plan for living apart together, create a financial power of attorney and health care power of attorney for each other.

Because a living apart together arrangement may create legal issues with married couples, you may want to consult a family law or divorce attorney.

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