Are we there yet? Children, separated families and long distance travel

By December 13, 2021Family Law

As family lawyers in a rural community, we understand the unique challenges that separating families living in rural and remote Australia often face.  A scenario we often deal with is children having to travel long distances to spend time with their separated parents, particularly those living in remote areas.

For a separated family living in Brisbane, Toowoomba or other metropolitan or regional areas the process of getting from Dad’s house to Mum’s house may involve a 15-20 minute car trip from one suburb to the next.  For a separated family living across western Queensland and NSW, the process of getting from Dad’s house to Mum’s house may involve a 6 hour car trip across state borders.

Travelling long distances on a regular basis can take a real toll on children, both physically and mentally.  As with all family law matters involving children, any decisions regarding travel must always be made in the best interests of the child.

In reaching an arrangement that is suited to the age and maturity of the children, these are some factors to consider:

  • It may be more appropriate for the child to live with one parent during school term time and spend longer periods of time with the other parent during school holidays, rather than travelling long distances between parents’ homes on a weekly/fortnightly basis.
  • Is there a service station / McDonalds / park etc that can serve as a halfway stop to break up the journey?
  • This halfway stop could also serve as the “changeover” location. This means both parents travel to this location and the child is delivered from one parent to the other.  This also has the advantage of allowing changeover to occur in a neutral, public place as sometimes, parents do not want changeovers to occur at their respective homes.
  • Consider what time the child will be arriving at a parent’s home. For example, travelling after school and arriving home late at night past a child’s bedtime may not be ideal. Instead, consider making the journey early in the morning.
  • Be mindful of the time difference between NSW and Queensland during the daylight savings period (October to April).
  • Ensure the journey is as enjoyable as possible by utilising podcasts, music, audio books, and movies on iPads.

If you have questions about these changes or other family law matters please contact a member of our family law team.