How to Manage Split Family Situations: Relocation Policy and Programme Best Practices
Posted by: Cindy Madden, Director, Consulting Solutions
Much of what used to be standard practice in terms of assignment patterns and support can no longer be taken for granted. One prime example is the emerging trend of the split family, when the assignee and family live apart for some time—or permanently—during an assignment.
This can be a very challenging, and stressful situation, but there are ways that you can address any issues and ways to support assignees, and families, to help to make the assignment successful.
How to Survive Long-Distance Relationships During an Assignment
My colleague, Jenny Castelino, director, intercultural & language solutions, spoke with The Wall Street Journal on dual-income couples. Featured in the Expat Blog, the article, How Expats Can Survive the Long-Distance Relationship, follows the story of a dual-income, split-family couple and the challenges that may arise in a split family situation. The article also provides recommendations for successful assignments—whether couples live apart or together.
Factors Causing Split Family Situations
There are a number of factors that can cause split family situations, varying by location. Dual careers and the ability of the spouse to work is the number one challenge, followed by schools (e.g., lack of spaces, quality, safety). Other reasons include the assignment being in a hardship location, healthcare issues, and challenges with same-sex partnerships in certain locations.
Ways to Avoid Split Families
In many cases, a split family situation can be prevented by the level of support you offer your assignee and his or her family. Candidate assessment can help the assignee and family figure out if a move is right for them. Another way is to have a short-term or commuter-type assignment where the assignee is unaccompanied, but has more frequent trips home. Spousal assistance and education support can provide the assignee and family with planning for the move.
When Split Families Can’t Be Avoided
There are times when a split family situation cannot be avoided. But there are a number of ways to support employees in this situation, including additional trips home or for the family to travel to the host location. The family can also live in a neighboring country and the assignee can visit them frequently.
For a full discussion of the factors, challenges, and support for split family situations, read our Mobility Insights on Split Family Situations.