What is Mediation?
Mediation in child custody disputes is a facilitated discussion between two parents that focuses on helping the parents reach an agreement acceptable to both parties. Mediation (sometimes referred to as “conciliation”) can be one of the best ways to achieve results in custody disputes. As a preventative measure, parents may be able to resolve a custody dispute before one parent takes drastic action and abducts the child to another country. In cases where an international abduction has already taken place, mediation can also be an effective tool, particularly when conducted in a way that is culturally neutral and respectful of the need for quick resolutions in child abductions.
What are the Benefits?
What can be Drawbacks?
How does Mediation Work?
Mediation works like a discussion. The two parents work with mediators, trained professionals who often have legal or social work backgrounds, to come to a solution to the controversy. The importance is placed upon the two parents reaching an agreement.
The goal of the mediator or mediators is to make sure that both parents are, for the most part, comfortable with the solution. This idea is why discussion is so important to mediators. Discussion, however, might not happen at one time or in one setting. Mediators or parents can choose to meet in a group – parent, mediator, parent – or one-on-one if the animosity is too strong. The important thing is that there is an exchange and flow of ideas. However, most mediators will require that parties each have legal counsel to advise on the legal viability of any agreement reached.
Mediation for international cases may be a little different. Language barriers and different legal systems may make resolution more difficult. For that reason, many European nations have employed mediation teams with two mediators, one from each country involved. While this model can be very effective, in the United States the costs may be prohibitive. When a solution is reached, the parents typically sign a written mediation agreement. Once filed with a court, this document is a public document and can be used in court if the agreement is ever violated.
What could Hamper Mediation?
Things to Remember:
Each country handles the idea and practice of mediation differently. Some countries may be working with a short term, trial mediation program for abduction issues. Others have established mediation sources from international governing bodies like the European Union. There are also non-governmental organizations that seek to provide aid in mediation. Below are a few of the resources available to a parent looking for mediation help and guidance.
REMEMBER: Ask your State Department case officer for more information. Mediation is gaining ground and new resources are becoming available all the time.