When parents split up, there are countless decisions to be made about future arrangements for their children. Chief amongst which is where the child will live, and with whom. Depending on the child’s age and capacity for understanding the consequences of making decisions like this, the child can have a say in what happens to them, and all decisions taken must be in their best interests.
This leads on to the tricky area of having contact with the non-residential parent, and how this should be handled. As long as the non-residential parent isn’t placing a child in danger, it is normally best for that child to maintain access to both parents after a divorce has been finalised. This can be a hard area to navigate and many non-residential parents can come away feeling concerned that they will lose touch with their child as he or she grows up. Especially if the parents involved are living, or propose to live, in separate countries. Here are some ideas to help you and your children stay in touch and maintain a good relationship, wherever you are in the world.
High tech methods of staying in touch are game-changers for many families in this position. Emailing, texting, ‘skype-ing’ and phoning all allow for instant contact, with visual contact an added bonus if you can skype. You may wish to pay for your child to have access to a phone, tab or PC to facilitate this contact, plus it will help them stay in touch with other friends and family from your local area if they are the ones who move further away. Set up a regular time for you to call, email or text that is convenient for all parties. That ensures a continual contact routine, plus you can get in touch outside these times if you have something else to talk about that can’t wait.
If digital contact is hard, or you are unable to make arrangements with your ex-spouse to facilitate this, then falling back on old fashioned pen and paper is a great way to let your children know that you are still thinking about them and are there for them. You can send postcards, letters and parcels, especially around celebrations such as birthdays or Christmas if you cannot be there in person. You may like to give your child a special box to keep your letters in. If you are worried that letters may not reach them for any reason, try sending them to another family member or store them up until you can see them in person.
Of course, the best form of contact is in person, seeing each other face to face and catching up on each other’s lives. Staying civil with the residential parent, and remaining sympathetic and supportive to their established routine will help with this. The more flexible you can be, fitting in around their work commitments, school clubs, homework and social events, the more successfully you can co-parent at a distance. Remember, the child’s needs and feelings must come first.
Never give up
It may seem easier to simply walk away if you are being denied contact with your non-residential child, but this is far from the case. Your child will, more than likely, want to know who you are and to foster a relationship with you into adulthood. If you stop trying to stay in touch, they may blame themselves or become extremely angry. Contact a family solicitor with experience in securing contact for non-residential parents who can help you secure meaningful, long-term contact.
Don’t forget that older children and teenagers will be increasingly able to seek a relationship with you by themselves as they gain independence. Make sure you remain findable e.g. on the electoral roll and on social media so that they can track you down later on. Never use social media to criticise their other parent. When writing a post or replying to someone else’s, always think whether you would be happy with your children reading what you write, even if it is many years from now. Again, a family solicitor can offer you advice around keeping in touch with your older children.