From the 9th to the 17th of October, Missing Children Europe focuses on children abducted by a parent. During Mediation Week, which takes place from October 9th to October 13th, we promote  cross border family mediation as an instrument to prevent abductions and de-escalate international family conflicts. From October 10th to October 17th, we are observers at the Eighth Meeting of the Special Commission on the Practical Operation of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention. This convention is the main international agreement between countries regarding what they will do when one parent removes or retains a child abroad without the approval of the other parent.

In today’s interconnected world, families often span across different countries. When these couples experience challenges that lead to separation, it can increase the risk of child abduction, making it an issue that affects countless lives. These heart-wrenching cases involve a parent removing or retaining a child in another country without the consent of the other parent, leaving families in crisis.

International child abductions represent a significant concern, especially in the European Union, where they constitute the second-largest category of missing children. The European network of missing children hotlines deals with a considerable number of cross border parental abduction cases.

As today, 12 October, is not only the central day of Mediation Week, but also the day the Eighth Special Commission meeting on the 1980 Hague Child Abduction convention focuses on mediation as a means of resolving international child abductions, let us explain why Missing Children Europe promotes mediation as a tool to prevent international child abductions in international divorce cases.

In international cases, children must grapple with additional stress, such as uncertainty about which country they will call home after their parents’ separation. They must adapt to a new language, culture, and environment, adding to the challenges they face.

These situations can also strain or permanently damage relationships with relatives. Court proceedings, in some cases, exacerbate these risks rather than mitigate them. Depending on the country, court cases can drag on for years, causing prolonged uncertainty, inadequate consideration of children’s welfare, and poor enforcement of court decisions.

Mediation is a proven approach to address these complex challenges and increase the likelihood of parents re-establishing communication, focusing on their child’s needs, and entering into a constructive dialogue to reach an agreement. Mediation thereby significantly reduces the risks children face when their parents separate.

The benefits of mediation:

  1. The Power of Confidentiality: Confidentiality is a hallmark of mediation. It enables and encourages parents to engage in open dialogue to address and resolve issues at hand. The process fosters a sense of ownership, as parents can actively influence the outcome, compared to court proceedings.
  2. A Bridge to Judicial Proceedings: Even if mediation doesn’t lead to an immediate agreement, it often significantly improves the relationship and communication between parents. Parents learn to listen and talk to each other, develop conflict resolution skills, and gain a deeper understanding of how their decisions affect their child.
  3. Cost-effectiveness and a Broader Scope: Mediation tends to be more cost-effective than court proceedings. By reaching sustainable agreements through mediation, parents can avoid the subsequent legal costs. Furthermore, mediation isn’t limited to issues within the court’s jurisdiction. It allows parents to address a broader range of topics, which can be especially helpful in resolving long-standing family disputes.
  4. A Symbiotic Relationship with Judicial Proceedings: In navigating the complex landscape of international child abduction, mediation and judicial proceedings often work hand in hand. When integrated effectively, these two approaches complement each other, preventing harm to children and parents. Mediated agreements can gain legal recognition and enforceability through court approval or registration, ensuring the child’s best interests remain at the forefront.
  5. The Voice of the Child: Finally, hearing the child’s perspective is of utmost importance in international family mediation. It helps parents understand the child’s needs and best interests and allows the mediator to better support the parents in reaching a child-centric agreement.

Overall, the process of international family mediation has the potential to bridge the chasms created by child abduction cases. It empowers children, reduces the risks to they run in International family conflicts, mends broken relationships, and paves the way for constructive and lasting resolutions.

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