How to cope with long-distance parenting

In an increasingly mobile world following the Covid-19 pandemic, where more of us than ever are moving out of cities as we work from home or in a hybrid fashion, how does this impact parents who live a significant distance away from the other parent? Here, Michael Compston looks at how long-distance parenting can work though direct and indirect contact, and how the school holidays can be your friend.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, nearly half[1] of all adults were working from home at least some of the time, and 8 out of 10 adults indicate that they want to work from home in a hybrid manner moving forward.

This has led to an exodus of city dwellers as families look for more space and greener living, now that they are not as constrained by the 9-5 office job that they once were.

This will likely lead to an increase in children being relocated and, ultimately, more instances where there is a significant distance between both parents. Children can only attend one school, so how can parents agree arrangements that work for the child/ren?

The reality is that, whilst both parents will have involvement in the child’s life, the child will have one ‘home’ such that the child lives with one parent and spends time with another.

Perhaps even more so than under other circumstances, communication between the parents is vital. The parent with whom the child lives must ensure that the child’s relationship with the other parent is protected and given the chance to develop even with the distances between the parents. There are several ways that this can be done:

Direct contact

Whatever the distance, we will all travel for our children. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re the parent that lives a significant distance away from your child, any time you get with your child will be precious. It will not be suitable, for example, to return the child to school on Monday given the distances involved. Instead, think about maximising your time with the child; if you can work flexibly on a Friday to arrive at school for collection, that means nearly a full weekend can be enjoyed by all.

Whilst the child lives in only one home, it is important that they understand their other parent has a home of their own. Contact should be encouraged to take place at the address of the parent with whom the child does not live, where possible.

This might not be possible during term-time if the parties live a very long way from each other, such that the journey time is greater than 6 hours.

Indirect contact

Modern technology allows us to keep up to date like our parents could not have dreamed of 30 years ago. Instant communication is possible through FaceTime and WhatsApp video calls, which is crucial to maintaining relationships over long distances.

These calls should be private; if you are the parent with whom the child lives, it is important to respect the relationship between the child and the other parent and to not intrude unnecessarily unless you have concerns about the content of the calls.

Regular video calls can be a useful tool in maintaining relationships over long distances.

School Holidays

The school holidays afford a prime opportunity for the parent with whom the child does not live to have some real, quality time with that parent. The holidays can be shared equally or perhaps even in favour of the non-resident parent to account for the disparity in contact during term-time.

Religious festivals can also be shared. Schools close for two weeks at Christmas and Easter generally, and also have provisions in place for other religious festivals such as Eid and Yom Kippur.


If you need advice on this topic, or any other matters concerning divorce or family law, please get in touch with our team at McAlister Family Law.




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