About International Family Mediation

Guide sections

About International Family Mediation icon
Section 1: About International Family Mediation

• What is International Family Mediation?
• Can a mediator decide who is right or wrong?
• Is what I tell the mediator kept confidential?
• How much does mediation cost? Who pays the fees?
• My ex refuses to go to mediation. Is mediation possible?

For Which Conflict and When Mediation Can Be Used icon
Section 2: For Which Conflict and When Mediation Can Be Used

• What kind of problems can mediation help me to resolve?
• Do courts and administrative authorities know about mediation?
• Can I call in mediation services after a court judgment?
• I do not have access to my children anymore. Can mediation help me?

Reasons for Choosing International Family Mediation icon
Section 3: Reasons for Choosing International Family Mediation

• What are the advantages of going for mediation?
• Why should I go for mediation if we already have lawyers who are helping us?
• My ex does not accept or understand how things happen in my culture...
• I am worried that my partner might take our children abroad and not bring them back. Can mediation help?
• How can we talk to each other in mediation sessions if we cannot do so outside them?

How International Family Mediation Is Carried Out icon
Section 4: How International Family Mediation Is Carried Out

• How can the mediation be carried out if we do not live in the same place?
• Can my children participate in the mediation?
• Can I have a discussion with the mediator alone?
• Can I bring a friend or someone to help me in the mediation?
• Can we have two mediators? 

International Family Mediation and the Law icon
Section 5: International Family Mediation and the Law

• Will my rights be respected during mediation?
• Does an agreement resulting from mediation have legal standing?
• What happens if mediation does not result in anything concrete?
• Will the mediated agreement have legal effect in another country?
• Do we have to suspend the legal proceedings in order to go for mediation?
• Will a mediator also give legal advice?

Wrongful Removal or Non-return of a Child icon
Section 6: Wrongful Removal or Non-return of a Child

• I retained my children in my home country and I’m afraid to go back. What can I do?
• How can mediation help me get my child back?
• Is it ever too late for mediation?
• I have the impression that mediation is weaker than a judicial procedure…
• Will mediation work if the contact between myself and the children has been completely cut off?
• My ex has taken the children and refuses to communicate. How can the mediator reconnect us?

What is international family mediation?

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 settle the conflict through communication and exchange, and discuss how they will continue to parent their children, in order to find solutions that work for all family members that are affected.

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 one of them relocates to another country.

International family mediation places the needs of children at the centre of the process. The aim is to seek solutions that can ensure the children’s well-being in accordance with their rights as given in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“Mediation brought us back to our respective roles as parents, and cleared the rivalries away.”

 A father

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 participants in the conflict themselves look for, explore and formulate possibilities of reaching agreement.

They control the results of the mediation because they are the sole decision-makers. They can suspend or terminate the mediation process at any time if they are not satisfied with the way it is proceeding.

Each participant can be supported by an independent legal adviser to look through the proposals before the decisions are finalised in an agreement that is usually called a mediated agreement. The mediation agreement can also be called a Memorandum of Understanding or a Mediation Summary.

The participants can also give their mediated agreement legal effect by having it recognised by a court.

What is being said during mediation remains strictly confidential, except in rare cases where the mediation reveals an apparently serious risk to the children or to one of the other participants. The content of such safety clauses varies from one country to another.

Some advantages of international family mediation

Instead of making a clear-cut decision in favour of one or the other parent, mediation takes into consideration the interests of all the members of a family – parents and children alike.

International family mediation permits all the participants to verbalise their concerns, express their feelings and put forward their material and organisational needs in a secure environment. They can do this in turn and without being interrupted. The mediator assists the participants to articulate those concerns.

Sometimes family conflicts occur in the context of differences in cultural or religious practices, or differences between cultural customs in one country and the laws of the country to which one of the parents has relocated. In such cases, international family mediation can help the parties in a marital conflict to arrive at a solution that bridges these differences.

“I had support from my community who provided mediation through the Conciliation and Arbitration Board. I realised that my faith, Islam, encourages me to negotiate and come to a fair settlement.”

– H.V.

The Mediators

Both men and women practise as professional mediators, working independently or as salaried employees of mediation organisations. Professional mediators adhere to a Code of Ethics and a Code of Conduct which they are expected to respect in every situation. They have undergone specialist training that covers all areas relevant to mediation: the law, communication and negotiation techniques as well as psycho-social aspects of a family breakdown. In many countries, professional mediators are officially recognised by a competent authority.

In countries where there is no recognised mediation training, mediators are locally recognised as such by virtue of their experience in resolving conflicts as well as their interpersonal skills. They need to be neutral. In cross-border cases, these mediators need to collaborate with specialised mediators and administrative and legal authorities.

"She [the mediator] was smiling and taking into account our suffering. We were not considered as a case or a file."

A father

Cost of international family mediation

The cost of mediation varies. It may even be available free of charge, for example when an authority or an institution orders it or where the service is provided by a state-funded organisation or offered without charge by associations or communities. In some cases, legal aid funds may be available to cover the cost.

Independent mediators charge a fee, which is usually split evenly between the parents or in proportion to each of their incomes. The modalities of payment are normally discussed at the outset of the mediation  process.


Limits of international family mediation

Mediation is based on the voluntary participation, good faith and engagement of all participants, so it cannot be carried out if one of the parties refuses to participate.

It cannot work if one party makes an attempt to bring pressure on the other party or if one party feels intimidated by the other one. For example, if one strongly fears the other and feels unable to speak out even in the presence of a third person, mediation may not be appropriate. Similarly, too great an imbalance between the couple may prevent success of a mediation.

"My partner agreed to attend mediation, but she did not make a real effort to discuss matters because she felt she was in a position of power legally and that she had nothing to lose. We did not reach agreement."