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Mediation in cases of International Parental Abductions (by Hilde Demarré)



Missing Children Publication Hub

Parental Abduction

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In the European Union approximately one million international couples get married annually. About 13% of these couples divorce. In many cases, children are involved.
When an international couple breaks up, additional issues are added to the conflict: cultural and language differences, country of residence, long distance access rights and international child abduction. 
Avoiding court litigation is generally in the interest of both parents and children. A mediated agreement tends to be more sustainable over time since it is accepted by both parties. Additionally, the mediation process –even when an agreement is not reached- will give parents the opportunity to normalise their communication and relationship as parents.
In 2014, the European Parliament published a study on the use of mediation vs court litigation in cross-border disputes. This research revealed that mediation is 60% less costly then court litigation and that in contrast to court litigation which takes on average 18 months to conclude, a mediation process takes an average of only 43 days.
Unfortunately, very few parents decide to make use of mediation to solve their cross-border family disputes. 
Numerous reasons have been cited to explain this reluctance: judges’ lack of conviction in referring conflictual parents to mediation, lawyers’ disinclination to support mediation, parents wanting revenge and to be proven right, a fear that mediation will be used as a delaying tactic for Hague Convention return proceedings, or a lack of qualified mediators.
Effective cross-border mediation requires specialised mediators who work with high quality standards. It requires a well-developed mediation model adapted to the specific demands of international child abduction cases, and it requires close collaboration with other stakeholders (such as Central Authorities, judges, lawyers and many more).
These demands have led to the development of a network of Cross-Border Family Mediators, bringing together mediators with specialised training and expertise that supports regular upgrading of qualifications and supervision.
The mediations carried out by these mediators are based on a co-mediation model that has been adapted to meet the specific requirements of the Hague Convention on Child Abduction. The 2014 EP study revealed that a highly successful way to promote mediation is the obligatory referral to mediation. The model used in the Netherlands has proven the success of this concept in child abduction cases. 
In light of the revision of the Brussels IIa Regulation, the European Union has a golden opportunity to embed mediation in international child abduction cases - and this is precisely what we need if we wish to give parents a genuine opportunity to empower themselves in finding their own solutions to their own conflicts.






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