I have previously written on the potential value of mediation in child abduction and relocation cases.
Why is mediation sometimes considered difficult?
Alternative dispute resolution procedures such as mediation are sometimes considered to be difficult in child abduction and relocation cases for the following reasons:
- Often both parents can be too emotionally involved to be able to emphasise with the other parent’s perspective;
- Either party may be convinced that they will succeed at a court hearing and so are unwilling to compromise;
- There may be issues with legal enforcement of any agreement reached during the mediation (a mirror order can be sought in this respect); and,
- Inexperienced legal professionals, who may have not traditionally employed mediation within child abduction and relocation cases, may not make their clients aware of this available avenue to compromise or may not support their client’s decision to mediate.
What are the benefits of mediation?
However, Reunite have recently engaged in a pilot project examining 28 child abduction cases. The process of mediation in fact proved quite successful with these cases. Reunite found the following features (as set out on their website):
- There was a benefit in the co-mediation model, i.e. bringing together a specialist child abduction lawyer mediator and a non-lawyer mediator; the non lawyer mediator having acknowledged communication and other therapeutic skills to help the parties understand why the abduction had occurred, and the separate issues faced by each parent;
- The lawyer mediator should be a specialist in child abduction law;
- The mediation had to be undertaken quickly and in parallel with the court proceedings;
- The final mediation outcome document (sometimes called a memorandum of understanding) should be converted into an order of the court and perhaps a mirror order of the relevant foreign court; and
- Even when mediation does not conclude in a settlement, the experience of Reunite was often that the understandings reached or created in mediation made future contact arrangements work more successfully.
It was therefore concluded that alternative dispute resolution practices, including mediation, should be considered by lawyers and their clients to be run in parallel with court proceedings.