International parental child abduction is a prevalent phenomenon that has aroused the anxious interest of most national governments. It usually arises out of a complex and extreme breakdown in relationship between parents. It frequently causes acute emotional distress to both parents involved, and most importantly to the abducted children.
Governments from many nations have been cooperating to seek a consistent approach, to discourage, and as far as possible, undo the effect of, international parental abductions. Most such abductions cases coming to our courts are considered under the provisions of the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the Hague Convention). The basic premise is humanitarian — that it is normally in the best interest of an internationally abducted child to be returned as quickly as possible to the country from which he or she has been taken.
Mediation in International Abduction Cases, Anne-Marie Hutchinson, presented at the World Congress on Family Law and The Rights of Children and Youth, Cape Town 2001
There are now 88 member states to the Hague Convention. Parental abduction cases are currently on the rise in Canada, and FMC would like to see mediation made available to all families and their children dealing with this major life event. International Custody Mediators specialize in resolving cross-border family disputes.
Mediation has become a well-recognized form of resolution in international custody cases. This highly specialized form of family mediation calls for a mediator with the ability to conduct distance mediation across cultural differences in highly volatile situations that are embedded in a complex, often mind-boggling, set of legal entitlements, forums and processes.
Families caught up in cross-border family disputes experience different levels of conflict — each case is unique. Mediation is an option at any stage of the conflict, and it can also be used preventatively. There is no question that responding to cross-border family disputes through conventional court-based processes (litigation) can be toxic for children. It is also clear that in these kinds of situations both children and their families can benefit tremendously from mediation services. Everyone involved has the opportunity to participate in the process, and the process itself is structured to allow everyone’s needs to be addressed all the while keeping the children’s safety and concerns in the forefront.
FMC is working to put in place ongoing training for certified family mediators across Canada who wish to develop a practice assisting families embroiled in international custody disputes. Our goal is to provide the best-trained and most experienced professionals in the field. We intend to build on co-mediation models based on a mentoring structure that allows mediators to acquire hands-on experience. The program will be designed with the benefit of input from the Canadian Government as well as from international and local agencies.
For a discussion of best practices for mediation in International Custody Disputes, click here or here.
FMC International Custody Disputes and Mediation Committee
Chair: Mary Damianakis
Family Mediation Canada’s International Custody Disputes and Mediation Committee (ICDMC) is open for prospective members; FMC membership is a requirement.
Membership Criteria: Committee members must have a minimum of ten years experience in family dispute resolution, and or completed at least forty (40) Memorandums of Agreement specific to international family restructuring within separation, and or divorce, challenges. The ICDMC will advise the board and the certification committee on any new developments that involve Canada, nationally and or provincially, and continue to provide input for policy makers, training, supervision, always with FMC’s Standards of Practice and Ethics. This is a working committee with the goal of engaging in an enriching working group from across Canada, and internationally, and with an interdisciplinary approach.