Online dating agencies and ever increasing communication through emails, both for business and pleasure, across the world is seeing a rise in long distance relationships. It is also creating a new phenomenon in the Family Court system. The number of divorced parents wanting to relocate interstate or overseas to begin a new life is meaning that the cost of visiting rights and custody battles are reaching new heights.

The Sydney Morning Herald recently reported that Sydney University has been conducting a study of 80 parents involved in relocation disputes since 2006. Researchers have been following 40 men and 40 women involved in 71 relocation cases. Results of the study suggest that some parents are not disclosing new relationships when they go to court requesting to relocate their children.

”Internet-based introduction services have radically increased the opportunities for separated parents to meet new people, and the connections thus formed are supported by very cheap modes of communication such as email, internet ‘chat’ programs, and web-based telephone or video communication,” Professor Patrick Parkinson, Associate Professor Judy Cashmore and Judi Single wrote in an article for US journal Family Law Quarterly.

The long term effects on the children are not yet known but not only do they now have to deal with a broken home and family, they also have to deal with being separated from one parent by large distances (the average distance being 1,646km).

These additional kilometres are adding to financial pressures as court battles become more complex and the cost of travel goes up. To say nothing of the stress this causes the children who either have to travel large distances to visit their mother or father or have to endure longer periods of separation from them due to the cost of each trip.

Of the 23,000 divorces granted in Australia each year about half involve children and child custody issues. Parents are being financially ruined and forced to sell their homes or face the possibility of losing contact with their children. The standard legal cost for settled divorces is $50,000 and $75,000 if it goes to court.

The study found that ”The fathers’ accounts indicated the possibility that in certain cases the existence of a new partner might not have been disclosed to the court,”.

The issue is further complicated by the fact that many parents, especially fathers, are not able to get extended periods of time off work in order to make the visit worthwhile financially.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.