Mediation – Child Abduction Mediation Scheme
The requirement in FPR r 1.4(2)(f) that case management includes encouraging the parties to use a non-court dispute resolution procedure where appropriate also applies to international child abduction proceedings.
Although, were appropriate, mediation has always been encouraged in child abduction proceedings, the introduction of the Child Abduction Mediation Scheme aims to ensure that parties engaged in child abduction proceedings are able, in a suitable case, to access a mediation service as an integral part of the court process and in parallel with, but independent from, the proceedings. Whilst mediation will not always be appropriate, it should always be explored by the court in cases of alleged international child abduction.
The new Child Abduction Mediation Scheme is an independent scheme run with the assistance of Reunite, a well-established organisation which provides mediators with specialised knowledge of international child abduction, trained and experienced in mediating cases of this nature.
The following key principles apply to the operation of the Child Abduction Mediation Scheme:
(a) The mediation will run in parallel with, but independent from, the proceedings in court, with the aim of completing the mediation within the timescale applicable to the proceedings.
(b) Mediation is voluntary and will only be undertaken with the consent of both parents. An unwillingness to enter into mediation will not have an effect on the outcome of the proceedings.
(c) Mediation will only be undertaken if the mediator considers that it is appropriate and safe to do so, and following an assessment of the parties and their situation during the required screening stage.
(d) Participation by the parties in mediation is without prejudice to the applicant’s right to pursue the return of the child, and without prejudice to the respondent’s right to defend the proceedings.
(e) Participation by the parties in mediation does not prevent the parties from requesting that the court determine the issues between them.
(f) If the mediation is not successful in resolving the issues then the matter will return to the court arena for determination.
Many child abduction cases are extremely contentious and involve parties with polar opposite views as to where their children should live. Nonetheless the introduction of the Child Abduction Mediation Scheme is a very welcome addition to the court process and it is hoped that this will reduce court time and encourage parties to come to an agreement without the need to go to a final hearing.