Today marks the beginning of International Mediation Week which aims to promote the importance of family mediation in parental abduction cases. Mediation remains a solution that is not sufficiently used in Europe, although recent research by Missing Children Europe revealed that children want their parents to find solutions in these conflicts and believe mediation can be helpful. This week, Missing Children Europe and members will highlight the request of children across Europe to their parents to work towards agreements when they separate, through the #HearMeOut campaign.

In Europe, a continent without borders, international marriages are increasingly commonplace. In recent years, there were about 240 to 250 thousand marriages between a foreigner and a national in Europe and the proportion of mixed marriages totalled 15%. In some cases, the marriage falls apart and escalates into a family conflict. When a parent takes his/her child to another country without the permission of the other parent, we talk about international child abduction. In Europe, parental child abductions account for ¼ of the missing children cases reported to the European missing children hotlines.

Going to court seems to be the most obvious solution to resolve these family conflicts, but this experience can be very traumatic for the child, who is caught in the middle, and for the parents, who often end up in a legal custody battle for years. Instead international family mediation has proven to be a more efficient and less conflictual procedure. In mediation, trained professionals engage directly with the parents to find a solution that reflects the specific family situation, is acceptable for both parties and places the needs and wellbeing of the children at the centre of the process.

Children are convinced that their parents are best placed to take decisions on their future. They want their parents to find solutions together and believe their parents are capable. But sometimes, when conflicts are high, they might need some help to refocus on the best interest of their children. And mediation can be an excellent tool to help parents. Through the #HearMeOut sticker campaign, we provide a clear message to the parents across Europe to focus on the interest of their children and move away from the underlying conflict. – Hilde Demarré, Policy Officer at Missing Children Europe who was involved in research with children.

You can learn more about the #HearMeOut campaign here.

Mediation is voluntary and confidential. As a result, mediation agreements tend to work more in the long run because both parents find it is a fair solution. It is also more cost and time effective than court litigation.

Missing Children Europe is the European Federation for Missing and Sexually Exploited Children, representing 31 grassroot NGOs in 26 European countries. Missing Children Europe coordinates the Cross-Border Family Mediators Network that consists of over 200 trained family mediators who help prevent and resolve cross-border family conflicts including parental abduction. Find out more about cross-border family mediation here.

What is mediation and how does it work? Watch the video here.

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