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International Family Mediation is being increasingly encouraged by legal and administrative State authorities to resolve cross-border family disputes. Thus, it is becoming apparent that clear, overarching principles for International Family Mediation are necessary to ensure the highest standards of practice among international family mediators around the world.
A Collaborative Process was initiated in 2015 to draft an international Charter applicable to all States. This Charter complements Codes of Conduct and Charters that were elaborated regionally or among existing networks. The nature of this Charter is to serve and reflect the great variety of international family mediation practices around the world. All existing structures relevant to International Family Mediation are participating in the creation of this overarching document of reference.
The Charter for International Family Mediation Processescontains 10 core principles to be respected during cross-border mediations. These principles can be seen as a tool to disseminate general knowledge about the recourse. More significantly, parents engaging in mediation can become informed about the necessary standards of practice and be assured that mediation is effective in safeguarding their rights. Examples of good practices will complement this list of principles and demonstrate their applicable nature.
A How to Use sets recommendations for an increased cooperation between administrative and legal authorities and specialised mediation structures.
ISS General Secretariat plays the role of facilitator and coordinator, and has the privilege to bring together all specialised structures and networks as well as independent professional mediators working for public services or within the ISS network. These mediators are specialists in cross-border family conflicts and come from around the globe to exchange expertise, multi-cultural perspectives, experiences, and lessons learned in issues of training, deontology and general practice.
The Charter lays a foundation for the development of international cooperation among family mediation practitioners specialising in cross-border conflicts as well as legal and administrative authorities. The end goal is to pave the way for the creation of one centralised and reliable network of qualified practitioners, recognised and accessible to all.
The creation of a global network of professionals will help families access mediators specialised in cross-border family conflicts. ISS wants to gather mediation professionals from all continents to establish jointly an accreditation system which guarantees standards of professional conduct.
The publication of the Charter for International Family Mediation Processes laid the foundation for the development of cross-regional cooperation among family mediation practitioners and with legal and administrative authorities (read more under the Project 3).
To follow up on this important collective endeavour, ISS organised a professional meeting gathering 27 experts from 18 countries and representing all continents in May 2017. The Collaborative Process decided to pursue work with the creation of a global network of international family mediators with the mission to ensure the protection of children involved in parental conflicts (read the Report of the Meeting).
The purpose 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. This initiative intends to strengthen and spread International Family Mediation globally. The idea is to promote any existing expertise, training offer and regional/transregional network for the advancement of this endeavour.
ISS was granted the mandate to coordinate the creation of The Network of International Family Mediators and to establish an Interim Steering Committee. The Chair and its 7 members appointed by ISS (who is a member by right) were drawn from a list of volunteers from the Collaborative Process. The criteria of geographic representation, diverse professional background and working languages were duly taken into consideration.
The appointed Interim Steering Committee submitted its Proposal to the Collaborative Process in May 2018 (read the ISC Proposal).
In addition, ISS GS created an institutional Review Board composed of a number of political organisations and institutions dealing with cross-border family conflicts in all regions, which has seemed to be a way to engage these institutions into cooperating in IFM development and recourse. This Board reviewed the ISC Proposal and answered the individualised questionnaires in the light of their own mandat
The outcomes of the work reflected and built upon following scopes and principles:
ISS wishes to wholeheartedly thank all members of the Collaborative Process for their active participation and their willingness to discuss practices, which brought to light the span of knowledge, experience and commitment developed throughout the world.
Video Clip of the 2017 Meeting:
Family mediation is a structured process in which an unbiased mediator enables members of a family in crisis, generally the parents, to speak in a constructive way about their conflict.
The goal is to resolve the conflict through communication and exchange in order to find solutions that work for all family members that are involved.
International family mediation seeks to resolve a family conflict involving at least two countries. For example, this could occur when parents separate because of conflict and live in different countries.
International family mediation places the needs of the couple's children at the centre of the process. The aim is to seek solutions that can ensure the children's wellbeing in accordance with their rights as given in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The participants can also give their mediated agreement legal effect by having it recognised by a court.
Parents who choose international family mediation are often those in situations where separation or divorce is about to lead, or has led, to the departure of one of the parents to another country.
Mediation is also frequently used in situations of wrongful removal or non-return of a child (better known as « child abductions »).
The majority of international family mediations deal with questions relating to parental responsibility and how to maintain links between the children and both of the parents.
Engagement in the mediation process is voluntary.
The mediator has separate discussions with each parent to assess if mediation is appropriate in their situation and whether both are willing to engage in the process.
During mediation, the parties in the conflict themselves look for, explore and formulate possibilities of reaching agreement. They control the results of the mediation because they are the only decision-makers.
They can suspend or terminate the mediation process at any time if they are not satisfied with the way in which it is proceeding.
Each part can be supported by an independent legal adviser to look through the proposals before the decisions are finalised in an agreement called a mediated agreement.
What is being said during mediation remains strictly confidential, except in rare cases where the mediation shows an ostensible serious risk for the child or for one of the other parties.
The content of such safety clauses varies from one country to another.
The website is used as a directory on mediation practice with regard to family laws and conflict resolution practices in different countries. It is meant for families involved in cross-border family conflicts and professionals of the psycho-social and legal fields working with families concerned.
The goal of the website is to raise awareness among families on the legal complexity of cross-border cases. Access to this information can possibly prevent child abductions and can provide support to professionals in their counselling roles. A web platform allows the information to be centralised, reliable and updated continuously.
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.
Based on ISS experience and input from international experts, the practical guide, very visual and easy to use, advises families caught up in a cross-border dispute how to move forward, and how they can benefit from mediation.
It recommends international family mediation not as a miracle solution to all the problems that families face during separation across national borders, but as a simple, pragmatic and professional avenue of conflict resolution that ensures individual rights and complements any legal proceedings to settle the disputes.
This Guide is intended for families all over the world – regardless of their origin, religion and composition – that are experiencing conflict with cross-border elements. The guide is drafted in conformity with all legislations and depicts the emotional impact of child abduction on all family members involved. While drawing attention to some risks that are often underestimated, it emphasises that the interests of the children are at the heart of international family mediations.
Easy to use and full of testimonies, it discusses all issues related to the recourse to international family mediation in 7 chapters, including a section with practical questions and guidance (questions to ask a legal adviser, content of mediation agreements, how to prepare for mediation, where to find appropriate help, etc.):
Click here to order a paperback version of the Guide.
A family conflict becomes international in various scenarios involving more than one country. It could happen, for example:
"Now it's a war between laws. Lawyers in this country will give me custody [...] but that custody is not recognised in my husband's country of residence so I'm stuck in a situation where I cannot afford to take the child to the country where my husband is, in case I don't get him back. [On the other hand] I don't want to restrict my husband's access to the child."
"The proceedings were complex and long, with much back and forth between the two countries. We chose to attend mediation in order to speed matters up. Then, we realised that we could speak about everything and address questions that were going to come to the surface later anyway for example, how best to organise holidays."
A father and mother giving a joint report
"We agreed that the children would join me here when they were old enough to go to secondary school. This will happen this summer and I am very happy about it. I think I would not have reached this far if I had continued along the path of legal proceedings against my ex-wife. And I would have spent a huge amount of money in lawyers' fees since 2008. "