Family mediation: a successful solution in child abduction cases
Brussels, 14 October – Today marks the beginning of International Mediation Week which aims to promote the importance of family mediation in parental abduction cases. Despite its success rate, mediation remains a solution that is not sufficiently used in Europe.
In Europe, a continent without borders marked by significant migration flows, international marriages are increasingly commonplace. About 180 000 transnational marriages take place in Europe each year. In some cases, the marriage falls apart and escalates into a family conflict. When a parent takes their child to another country without the permission of the other parent, we talk about parental abduction. In Europe, parental abductions account for 23% 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.
Hilde Demarré, Policy officer at Missing Children Europe, who is also a trained family mediator, has witnessed the benefits of mediation for the affected children first-hand: “Mediation is always voluntary and confidential. As a result, mediation agreements tend to work more in the long run because both parents find it a fair solution. Research shows that the wellbeing of a child is higher when both parents believe the solution is fair.”
It is also a more efficient practice: 75% of the family mediation cases in Europe have reached a partial or full mediation agreement. A study by the European Parliament from 2014 also found that family mediation can save significant time and money in resolving parental abduction cases compared to other procedures. However, despite these benefits, mediation remains relatively unknown to the public.
Missing Children Europe, the national associations supporting missing children and networks of mediators are launching various initiatives for Mediation Week which aims to promote mediation to all stakeholders concerned, including parents, mediators themselves, but also professionals such as lawyers, so that it finally receives the same awareness and promotion by law bodies as one of the best solutions to ensure the wellbeing of the child.
About Missing Children Europe
Missing Children Europe (MCE) is the European federation for missing and sexually exploited children, representing 31 organisations from 27 European countries. We provide the link between research, policies and organisations on the ground to protect children from any kind of violence, abuse or neglect that is caused by or results from them going missing.
Missing Children Europe coordinates the Cross-Border Family Mediator network that consists of 178 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.
Policy Officer, Missing Children Europe
+32 478 97 87 76