Living in rural areas sometimes means that sometimes you have to cope with distance. Whether it is to send your children to school or simply to get the necessities of life like groceries or that particularly expensive but extremely important spare machinery part, distance is something that country people take in their stride. I remember talking to friends at university who were city born and bred. They thought that I had a deprived life because the closest cinema to the town I grew up in was 90 minute round trip.
Parenting is hard enough at times without having to factor in issues of distance. It can be hard on both parents and children when you are trying to co-parent from a distance. It can be much harder when one parent wants to return home to where they grew up and where they may have their families, friends and support networks. Whilst everyone has a right of freedom of movement, the Family Law Courts recognise that distance can have an impact upon parents having meaningful involvement with their children. The Courts recognise that children have the right to have meaningful relationships with both of their parents and that both parents should, where possible have the ability to share and experience their children’s daily routines. This sometimes may mean that a parent finds themselves in a place or subject to a routine that is not optimal for them or the children.
Sometimes this isn’t possible to put in place equal are arrangements given the tyranny of distance. The Courts recognise that there will be some instances where, due to the logistics of travel, schooling, and extra-curricular activities, the garden variety arrangements for children in separated or blended families won’t be appropriate or in their best interests. This may sometimes mean that the primary carer of the children will have to be creative in terms of fostering a relationship between the other parent and the children. This sometimes means sacrificing the bulk of the holidays so that they children can spend quality time with the other parent. It can also mean arrangements such as sometimes during school terms where they will need to travel to either facilitate time with the other parent or the other parent travelling to the children to see them at sporting commitments.
Technology can also be of great assistance. Now I appreciate that as I live in Toowoomba and have the NBN at my fingertips, I am spoilt. Although internet connectivity in rural areas is less than ideal at times (and incredibly expensive if you are reliant on satellite services such as Activ8 or SkyMesh), communication by Skype or FaceTime can assist in keeping parents and children in contact with each other. I have clients who read bedtime stories or do homework with their children by Skype. This type of communication can allow children to include a distant parent in their day-to-day lives.
Websites like www.ourchildren.com.au and smart phone apps like SharedCare can also help parents communicate and co-parent. These sites and apps can assist with everything from secure communications between parents for the sharing of information and photographs to shared calendars and expenses.
This article originally appeared in Border Living Magazine.