Mediation for Expats – A long term solution for Child Custody Disputes

Mediation for Expats – Why children benefit when parents Mediate

Mediation and other forms of dispute resolution are becoming increasingly popular to resolve child custody disputes involving expats. Such cases were once believed to be too contentious to benefit from such methods of settlement. Mediation via Skype or video link, have opened this method of settlement to British families living abroad. Most expat couples that have used mediation, have found it to be cost effective, and a quick and simple process, allowing them to resolve disputes effectively to reach a long term solution. It is widely thought that negotiated or mediated arrangements for children following divorce, last longer and are more effective than a court imposed decision.


Mediation for Child Abduction or Relocation

The Reunite International Child Abduction Centre developed and trialled a mediation pilot scheme for use in cases of international parental child abduction[1]. In all cases the child had been retained in the UK and the other parent was pursuing court proceedings for its return. Of the 28 cases they mediated 75% of them were able to reach agreement as to where the child should live and the importance of a continuing relationship with the other parent.

Mediation can also be very useful in international relocation cases. While the parents’ positions can seem polarised, if details can be negotiated, an agreement can often be reached. When the children will see the left behind parent and where, telephone contact, who will pay for flights and what school the children will go to are the sort of issues which will need to be decided.

These sorts of cases are often able to be resolved without the expense of court proceedings and much more quickly. That is of crucial importance if a child is not seeing a parent or has been removed from their primary carer. A further advantage of a mediated settlement is that parents are much more likely to abide by the terms of an agreement which they have signed up to rather than one which has been imposed upon them. Most importantly in these cases damage to the child is limited as continued conflict between the parents is avoided.

The International Mediation Centre for Family Conflict and Child Abduction (MiKK e.V.) is a Berlin based NGO which organises mediations for parents in any cross border custody, contact or child abduction dispute. They use expert family mediators who specialise in cross border conflict. The cases are co-mediated and, crucially, one mediator will share the same nationality and speak the same language as each parent.


What is Parenting Co-ordination?

Parenting co-ordination originated in the US and is now widely practised in Canada and South Africa. It can help parents resolve more day to day disputes relating to their children. The parenting co-ordinator will help parents implement final child arrangement orders or parental agreements. Court orders do not deal with the minutiae of contact but might say, for example, that the holidays should be split equally. A parenting co-ordinator could help parents who cannot agree on dates or about details for handover. If an agreement cannot be mediated the parenting co-ordinator would make a binding decision to determine the conflict. Parenting co-ordination training is now being offered in the UK.


The International Family Law Arbitration Scheme

Clearly it is not just children cases which can benefit from alternative dispute resolution. A new initiative was recently launched by the International Family Law Arbitration Scheme (IFLAS) to help families where there is a dispute about which country divorce proceedings should be issued in. It has been designed to help families decide with which country they have the closest connection. After the couple have completed online questionnaires, a specialist arbitrator from another country will determine which country will be appropriate to deal with the divorce.


Couples in dispute now can benefit from having such a wide range of alternative dispute resolutions open to them which were not readily available even ten years ago.


This article was written by Hero Lomas, solicitor and mediator at Expatriate Law. Hero can be reached at 



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