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.
For which conflicts?
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.
Some important aspects to keep in mind:
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.