Separated couples end up living far apart for a variety of reasons. Work changes often result in one parent having to relocate and the other parent staying where their children are already settled and/or at school. Sometimes, following the parents’ separation, one of them needs the help and support of their family and so move or return to their home location. Distance has significant implications when it comes to maintaining close relationships with children. Older children may be able to keep in touch by phone, Facebook or Skype for instance, but for younger children, this is not usually the case. Younger children often feel more alienated from the absent parent when that parent is a long distance away.
At this time of year, when parents are looking at schooling for their children in September, the issue of relocation becomes more pressing. Here is how Juliette Dalrymple, managing director of Family Matters, has helped some parents find solutions for the long-distance issue.
In one case, where there were two children aged 10 and 14, the mother wanted to move to Sweden. The oldest child wanted to stay in the UK with her father and the youngest wanted to go with the mother. The case was referred to Family Matters by the court. We undertook mediation and child consultation and the parents agreed on an arrangement whereby the children would go in the direction they chose but would be together each holiday. We also made provision to make changes to this agreement, should either child change their mind at any time.
A further case in which the parents separated when their child was two years old and where one parent lives in Wales and the other in England, saw Family Matters help make arrangements for shared care. Previous court proceedings had set out a timetable for the child to spend Thursday to Tuesday with its father once a month. The child is due to start school in September 2018 and the court order needed to be changed to accommodate this. Both parents agreed that they did not want to go to court and came to mediation. We were able to help them come to an arrangement for their child to spend one weekend per month with their father in his home and on another weekend per month, the father would spend time local to where the child lived. They will also share time during all half terms and other holidays between both parents equally.
When a child decides they want to live with the other parent to the one they already live with, holidays can also present difficulties. In a case where the child, aged 14, had fallen out with her mother following an argument, Family Matters was able to help a separated couple make arrangements following the argument. The child had previously lived with the mother but now lives with the father following the disagreement with her mother. Before the argument, the father had booked a holiday in Lanzarote, but the mother said that she didn’t want the child to be rewarded by the holiday as the child had pushed boundaries. Whilst the father agreed with the mother’s sentiments, he had already booked and paid for the holiday, so they agreed that the child should go on the holiday. The parents also agreed on sanctions relating to the unacceptable behaviour and that they should be implemented before the holiday. The child was not spending any time with her mum and Family Matters helped the parents come to an arrangement using mediation for the child to stay with dad but agree a timetable to resume a relationship with the mum.
Finally, Family Matters helped a separated couple who had twins aged 18 months. The couple separated in March 2018 and the father wants to take his children to Devon to see his parents. The mum didn’t want this to happen, maintaining that the dad couldn’t manage the two children and that the distance is too great. Family Matters helped the parents agree to a short holiday somewhere close to Doncaster followed by a longer holiday to Devon later in the year. As the mum is from Devon anyway, she will go and stay close by the father during his holiday with the children.
If you need help finding a solution that works relating to a long-distance relationship with your child, come and see Family Matters. We only offer mediation, which is why we can find the best solution for your individual situation.