For over 90 years, ISS intercountry casework has tackled cross-border family conflicts - including child abductions. Since 2010, ISS has developed a global programme focusing on International Family Mediation.
International family mediation aims to better protect children involved in parental conflicts that span national borders. ISS wants to raise awareness on the legal complexity of cross-border family cases and highlight that International Family Mediation can be a practical, efficient tool to solve cross-border family disputes and a preventive measure of child abductions.
The ISS International Family Mediation unit has undertaken and continues to undertake far-reaching projects. Our three main projects are a multilingual website presenting information and resources for families and professionals, a Guide to International Family Mediation and an internationally recognised Charter. Further details can be found in our section "The Projects" below. See executive summary here.
Background and international challenges
Today, international State bodies such as the Hague Conference on Private International Law and the European Union recognise the importance of introducing family mediation in overruling legal proceedings as a way to solve cross-border conflicts. This recognition also reflects the political will to formalise international family mediation practice and to establish it as a complement to legal and judiciary avenues.
The role of ISS
ISS's approach is to promote international family mediation with projects that aim to facilitate access to families on a global scale. For mediation to become truly accessible to families, ISS has partnered with cross-border family mediation professionals and has created an international Advisory Board in order to complete the political process with a number of concrete measures.
ISS develops a series of projects to progressively meet following key objectives:
1) Address the most urgent needs in terms of information among the target audiences: families, professionals of the psycho-social and legal fields supporting families, policy makers and States' authorities;
2) Raise awareness on the benefits and limitations of international family mediation among these actors and reinforce child abduction prevention;
3) Formalise cross-border family mediation by bringing together professional networks and competences in order to facilitate access to family mediators specialised in cross-border conflicts for families and professionals.
The first project is the publication of a guide to international family mediation practice intended to families and professionals supporting or accompanying these families.
Click here to order a paperback version of the Guide.
Click here to download the ISS Guide to International Family Mediation in English.
It is also available in French, Russian, Italian, Spanish, German, Bulgarian and soon in Portuguese and Arabic.
Why a guide?
Few families know they have the opportunity to use mediation for issues of divorce, separation and parental rights in cross-border situations. The belief that conflicts involving two countries can only be settled through legal procedures still prevails.
The Guide's content:
The guide includes information, testimonies, studies and experiences reflecting the many benefits as well as the limits of cross-border family mediation; it highlights the articulation between mediation practice and the law and was drafted in conformity with all legislations and mediation practices. An entire section consists of practical advice to parents concerning preparation and access to mediation and reliable information on their legal situation, as well as contents of mediation agreements.
Read more about the project
The second project is a multilingual web platform which allows a wider access to reliable and continuously updated information on international family mediation. It contains the ISS Guide adapted to the web format, a directory by country to help families involved in cross-border family conflicts and professionals of the psycho-social and legal fields to find public services and charitable organisations that can provide assistance (authorities for cross-border disputes, social and child welfare services, etc.)
Access the website on this link: www.ifm-mfi.org
Read more about the project
The third project was to gather mediators specialised in cross-border disputes from all the continents to jointly elaborate and draft an international charter of professional conduct, as well as a set of best practices.
The Charter, published in 2017, is the fruit of an international working group of 55 professional mediators who serve as representatives and come from all seven continents. All established and recognised structures specialising in international family mediation across the world were part of this Collaborative Process. As an international document of reference, The Charter serves as a medium to strengthen dialogue and cooperation between mediators and administrative and legal bodies; for this reason, the initial work of the group took place in parallel to an international conference on child protection, focusing in particular on The Hague Convention of 1996 (read Conference Report).
As collectively decided in May 2017 in Geneva, this collaboration is being pursued with the aim to create a Global Network of International Family Mediators.
Read the Charter for International Family Mediation Processes (in English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Russian) and the How to Use (in English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Russian).
These documents are also available in WORD format: English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Russian.
Read more about the project
Approximately 60 examples of Good Practices related to IFM and cross-border family conflicts were elaborated at the 2015 Geneva Meeting (read the Summary of Best Practices). To present them in an accessible and easy-to-use format, ISS created a virtual, multilingual and collaborative workplace for mediation practitioners. The principal purposes of The Platform are to facilitate networking and to share information amongst mediators around the world. Registered participants can discuss the examples of Good Practices by country, upload or download documents, share information on events / trainings / conferences related to IFM, provide feedback on trainings, find other mediators' contacts and send private messages.
The "Demo" version was presented at the 2017 Geneva Meeting to identify the needs and views of the practitioners. The Platform will be available for all Internet users as of 2018.
The Charter for International Family Mediation Processes was agreed on and published by a group of qualified international family mediators from all the continents, the Collaborative Process. In May 2017, this international group decided that a global professional network of international family mediators should be created to ensure the protection of children involved in parental conflicts.
It was determined that the objective of such a network is to facilitate searches for competent and qualified international family mediators working in all regions of the world, and to reinforce cooperation with administrative and legal authorities (read the Report of the Meeting).
This initiative, which involves both individual mediators and recognised regional or transregional organisations, paves the way to root and strengthen IFM practice across regions, and in each country, and to facilitate access to mediation for families and for the judiciary.
The Network intends to help promote existing expertise and regional/transregional networks, as well as all existing training offers, in order to extend professionalization, and access to information, for practitioners across regions.
Read more about the project
Expected outcomes for these projects are:
- Develop international cooperation among family mediation practitioners specialising in cross-border conflicts from all around the world;
- Bring together existing networks of qualified mediators and other practitioners in fields related to cross-border family conflicts;
- Raise awareness of the legal complexity of cross-border family disputes to prevent child abduction;
- Refer families, professionals and authorities to reliable and qualified actors of cross-border family conflicts.
What is international family mediation?
Go to www.ifm-mfi.org for more information.
For which families can international family mediation be helpful?
Who to Contact for Cross-border Family Conflicts?
- On the website www.ifm-mfi.org, you can access its Country information section where you can find international family mediation services and psycho-social support as well as your specific country Central Authority contact information;
- Central Authorities under the Hague Convention (generally working in collaboration with one of the following Ministries: Justice, Family, Health, Foreign and Social Affairs);
- Central Contact Points for international family mediation;
- AIFI (Association internationale francophone des intervenants auprès des familles séparées);
- Network of Cross-border Family Mediators;
- National Associations for Family Mediation;
- International Social Service (ISS);
- Specialised agencies in international family law;
- Legal support systems;
- Social services;
- Consulates and embassies.
What sources of reference are available for International Family Mediation?
Litterature on family mediation
- D'URSEL Damien, La médiation entre tradition et modernités familiales, Presses Universitaires de Louvain, 2010.
- DE ROUVROIT LAMBERT Alix, La médiation familiale transnationale, Origine, développement, et perspectives d'un processus novateur, Mémoire présenté en vue de l'obtention du diplôme de Master en Droit sous la supervision du Professeur Marc Fallon, Université Catholique de Louvain, 23 August 2010.
- GANANCIA Danièle, La médiation familiale internationale. La diplomatie du cœur dans les enlèvements d'enfants, Editions érès, Trajets, Ramonville Saint-Agne, 2007.
- GEORGE Rob, JUDD Frances, GARRIDO Damian, WORWOOD Anna, Relocation. A Practical Guide, an indispensable guide for anyone working in this complex and fast changing area of law and practice. Jordan Publishing, 2013.
- KESHAVJEE Mohamed, Islam, Shari'a and Alternative Dispute Resolution. Mechanisms for Legal Redress in the Muslim Community. Published by I.B. Tauris, 2013.
- PARKINSON Lisa, Appropriate Dispute Resolution in a new family justice system, Jordan Publishing Ltd., 2011.
- PARKINSON Lisa, Family Mediation, Appropriate Dispute Resolution in a new family justice system. Jordan Publishing Limited, Bristol, 2011.
- PAUL Christoph C., KIESEWETTER Sybille, Cross-Border Mediation. Foreign and International Legal Provisions. Mediation über Grenzen. Ausländische und internationale Rechtsnormen. Online Publication, 2011.
- PAUL Christoph C., KIESEWETTER Sybille (Hrsg.), Mediation bei internationalen Kindschaftskonflikten. München, 2009.
- PEKAR A., SALZER J. et COLSON A., Méthode de Médiation. Au cœur de la conciliation, Editions Dunod, Paris, 2008.
- ROBERTS Marian, Developing the Craft of Mediation, Reflections on Theory and Practice. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London, 2007.
- ŞUSTAC Zeno Daniel, WALKER Jamie, IGNAT Claudiu, CIUCA Anca Elisabeta, LUNGU Sanda Elena, Best practice guide on the use of mediation in cross-border cases. Ministry of justice Rumania (Hrsg.), 2013.
- ZERMATTEN Jean, L'Intérêt Supérieur de l'Enfant. De l'analyse littérale à la portée philosophique, Institut International des Droits de l'Enfant, Working Report 3-2003.
Articles on International Family Mediation
- BUCHER A., "The new Swiss Federal Act on International Child Abduction", Journal of Private International Law, vol. 4, No. 2, 2008.
- BUCK T., "An evaluation of the long-term effectiveness of mediation in case of international parental child abduction", Reunite International Child Abduction Center, 2012.
- CARL E., COPIN J-P., RIPKE L., "Le projet pilote franco-allemand de médiation familiale professionnelle. Un modèle de collaboration internationale dans le cadre des conflits familiaux".
- DE VROEDE Nadia, "Médiation familiale internationale, Préface", Scientific Journal of AIFI, vol. 1, No. 2, Editions Yvon Blais, Canada, 2008.
- DOBIEJEWSKA Elzbieta, "La Médiation familiale dans le contexte polonaise", translation of Grazyna Karbowska, Scientific Journal of AIFI, Vol. 1, No. 2, Editions Yvon Blais, Canada, 2008.
- GREENHOUSE Carol J., "Mediation: A comparative approach", in Man, New Series, Vol. 20, No. 1, Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, March 1985, pp. 90-114.
- IRANI G.E., "Islamic Mediation Techniques for Middle East Conflicts", Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 3, No. 2, June 1999.
- KESHAVJEE M. M., "Family Mediation in the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim Community - Institutional Structures, Training and Practice", 7th European Conference on Family Law "International Family Mediation", Council of Europe, Strasbourg, 16 March 2009.
- KESHAVJEE M. M., "Multiculturalism and the challenges it poses to legal education and alternative dispute resolution: The situation of British Muslims' studies address to the department of peace studies", University of Bradford, The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2004.
- KESHAVJEE M. M., "Alternative Dispute Resolution: Its Resonance in Muslim Thought and Future Directions", The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2002.
- Ministry of justice Romania, "Informative guide concerning cross-border mediation in civil matters in the European Union" (leaflet), European Union Specific Programme Civil Justice, 2010.
- PAUL C. C., WALKER J., "A Case for Mediation: Family Mediation in International Child Custody Conflicts", World Arbitration & Mediation Review (WAMR), Vol. 1, No. 4, JurisNet LLC Huntington, New York, USA.
- STALFORD H., "Crossing boundaries: reconciling law, culture and values in international family mediation", Journal of Social Welfare & Family Law, 32(2), 2010.
- TOURRILHES C., "La médiation, innovation sociale ou nouveau mode de régulation ? Vers des espaces tiers de socialisation", Pensée Plurielle 2008/2, No. 18, pp. 109-120.
- WALL A. J., STARK J.B., STANDFER R.L., "Mediation: A Current Review and Theory Development", The Journal of Conflicts Resolution, Vol. 45, No. 3, Sage Publications, Inc., June 2001, pp. 370-391.
Articles on the place of the child in family mediation
- ACHIM J., CYR F., FILION L., "L'implication de l'enfant en médiation familiale: de la théorie à la pratique", in Revue Québécoise de psychologie, Vol. 18, No. 1, 1997.
- COUTANCEAU Roland, DAHAN Jocelyne, "La parole de l'enfant. La vérité sort-elle toujours de la bouche des enfants ?", Dunod, Paris, 2016.
- International Judicial Conference on cross-border family relocation: Washington Declaration on Family Relocation, 23-25 March 2010.
- MCINTOSH J.E., WELLS Y.D., SMYTH B.M., LONG C.M., "Child-focused and Child-inclusive Divorce Mediation: Comparative Outcomes from a Prospective Study of Post separation Adjustment", in Family Court Review, Vol. 46, No. 1, January 2008, pp. 105-124.
Research & Studies on International Family Mediation
- Reunite International Child Abduction Centre, Reasearch Unit, Mediation In International Parental Child Abduction, 2006.
- FREEMAN Marilyn, International Centre for Family and Law, Policy and Practice, "Parental Child Abduction: The Long-Term Effects", 2014.
Publications by ISS members
- AUERBACH Stephan, "L'approche basée sur la médiation", Rapport Annuel 2005, International Social Service, the Swiss Fondation.
- AUERBACH Stephan, "Au service de l'intérêt supérieur de l'enfant. La médiation familiale internationale au sein du Service Social International", Colloquium AIFI, 24 May 2007.
- CARATSCH Cilgia, "La médiation familiale internationale. Observations sur son établissement institutionnel", Mémoire de DUM soumis à l'IUKB, submitted 29 June 2012.
- CHOUCHANI HATEM Rita, "La différence culturelle vécue au quotidien dans les couples mixte franco-libanais", Scientific Journal of AIFI, Vol. 1, No. 2, Editions Yvon Blais, Canada, 2008.
- REYNAUD DE LA JARA Kristine, "La médiation familiale internationale dans le contexte des enlèvements d'enfants. Le regard du Service International", Scientific Journal of AIFI, Vol. I, autumn 2007.
- ISS Australia, "Hague Children's Conventions: The need for an Advocacy Response to Protect Children in the Context of International Parental Child abduction".
- ISS Australia, "Living in Limbo. The experience of International Parental Child Abduction, the call for a national support service", February 2005.
- ISS Germany, "The development of mediation, conciliation and similar means to facilitate agreed solutions in cross-border family disputes concerning children (especially in the context of The Hague Conventions of 1980 and 1996)", An International Review by International Social Service, 29 August 2006.
- ISS Switzerland, ISS Germany, ISS General Secretariat, "Children in cross-border family conflicts, The approach of International Social Service for facilitating amicable solutions in their best interests in the context of The Hague Conventions of 1980 and 1996", Geneva/Berlin, 2 August 2006.
- ISS Australia, Final Project Report, Children in Cross-Border Family Conflicts: The child-centred, mediation-based approach of International Social Service, 31 October 2007.
- ISS Switzerland, Training Seminar, Children in Cross-Border Family Conflicts: The child-centred, mediation-based approach of International Social Service, Final project report for the ISS Bureau of ExCo meeting, Genève, 20-23 April 2008.
Colloquia and Conferences
- JOURNEE SARAH OBERSON 2006, Couples déchirés, enfants en danger. Les enlèvements internationaux d'enfants, Jean Zermatten, Paola Riva Gapany (Eds.), Sion, June 2007.
- AIFI (Association Internationale Francophone des Intervenants auprès des familles séparées), Guide de bonnes pratiques en médiation familiale à distance et internationale, présenté au Bureau permanent de la Conférence de La Haye de droit international privé, 25 January 2008.
The Hague Conference on International Private Law
- Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Concluded on 25th October 1980).
- Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children (Concluded on 19th October 1996).
- Declaration of the Malta Judicial Conference on Cross-Frontier Family Law Issues Hosted by the Government of Malta in Collaboration with the Hague Conference on Private International Law (on 14-17th March 2004).
- Declaration of the Second Malta Judicial Conference on Cross-Frontier Family Law Issues Hosted by the Government of Malta in Collaboration with the Hague Conference on Private International Law (on 19-22nd March 2006).
- Declaration of the Third Malta Judicial Conference on Cross-Frontier Family Law Issues Hosted by the Government of Malta in Collaboration with the Hague Conference on Private International Law (on 23-26th March 2009).
- Permanent Bureau of The Hague Conference on Private International Law, Feasibility Study on Cross-Border Mediation in Family Matters (20 March 2007).
- Feasibility Study on Cross-Border Mediation in Family Matters - Responses to the Questionnaire (10 March 2008).
- VIGERS Sarah, Note on the Development of Mediation, Conciliation and Similar Means to facilitate Agreed Solutions in Cross-border Family Disputes Concerning Children Especially in the Context of the Hague Convention of 1980, The Hague Conference on Private International Law (5 October 2006).
European Commission & Council of Europe
- European Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions concerning Custody of Children and on Restoration of Custody of Children, 1980.
- Recommendation No. R(98)1 adopted by the Committee of Ministers to Member States on Family Mediation of the Council of Europe, on 21 January 1998 at the 616th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies.
- Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003 concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility, repealing Regulation (EC) No 1347/2000.
- European Network of National Observatories on Childhood, Family Mediation in the European Union, Survey, ChildONEurope Secretariat, Luxemburg, June 2005.
- Practice Guide for the Application of the New Brussels II Regulation, (Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003 concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility, repealing Regulation (EC) No 1347/2000), Updated version 1 June 2005.
- Academy of European Law (E.R.A.), "Family Mediation in Europe", Trier, 31 May 2006.
- European Forum, Training and Research in Family Mediation, European Congress on Family Mediation, « Mediating with Families: from the Traditional Conflicts to the Actual Social Problems», organized by the I.T.e.R. Istituto di Terapia Relazionale, Caserta, Italy, 28 September 2006.
- DUNCAN William, "The Work of the Hague Conference in the Field of International Family Mediation", 7th European Conference on Family Law "International Family Mediation", Council of Europe, Strasbourg, 16 March 2009.
- LOWE Nigel, The 2003 Statistical Survey, The judges' Newsletter, Vol. 11, 2006.
- LOWE Nigel, Analyse statistique des demandes déposées en 2003 en application de la Convention de La Haye du 25 octobre 1980 sur les aspects civils de l'enlèvement international d'enfants, Partie I, Rapport Général, mise à jour de l'année 2007.
- LOWE Nigel, A statistical analysis of applications made in 2008 under the Hague convention of 25 October 1980 on the civil aspects of international child abduction: Part I global report, 2011.