I was recently asked to speak with John Beattie from BBC Radio Scotland to discuss new UK research showing that many fathers do not have the opportunity to spend time with their children on Christmas Day following separation or divorce.

In Scotland, fortunately, the situation is different from that in England and there has been a move away from an adversarial approach to family law.

There are now several alternatives to court available to divorcing parents, including mediation and Collaborative practice, with children's interests always being at the heart of any agreement.

Effective communication between the parents is vital, particularly in the lead up to Christmas, and they should take their children's views into account, depending, of course, on their age and maturity.

Parents should be encouraged to put to one side the reasons for the breakdown in their relationship and to prioritise what is best for their children.

They should try to avoid talking negatively about each other and also be encouraged to be constructive in the proposals that they put forward.

Alternative arrangements can be made that keep both parties happy.

Some parents agree to take turns about spending Christmas Day with their children and host a second family celebration on Boxing Day so that both parents can share in the Christmas spirit.

It's important to remember that what most children want for Christmas following a separation is for their parents to be on civil terms, and for the big day not to marred by conflict.

That's why divorced or separated parents ought, as far as possible, to embrace the season of goodwill and give their children the most important present of all - a peaceful and happy Christmas.


Shaun George