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An Evaluation of the Long-Term Effectiveness of Mediation   

This research project aimed to capture the long-term effectiveness of mediation in cases of international parental child abduction in order to provide more robust research evidence to support the continuance (or not) of such mediation services. Our overall aim was to determine whether the agreements reached in mediation had proved, over time, to be ‘successful’ according to a number of criteria.

In evaluating long-term effectiveness we also thought that it would be helpful to make some comparisons between two categories of mediation case: those which could be said to have been ‘resolved’ through our mediation service and those cases which were ´unresolved´ by way of mediation. We took as the definition of a ´resolved´ case the situation where a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) had been reached in mediation and was quickly followed by a consent order in the courts. A case was counted as ´unresolved´ where an MoU was not reached in mediation and the case had to be referred back to the courts for an authoritative decision.  

The study population consisted of those parents who had already participated in mediation with reunite, either under the auspices of our Mediation Pilot Scheme or the reunite mediation service, between December 2003 and December 2009. This cut-off date was necessary to ensure that the dataset contained respondents who would be reflecting retrospectively across a sufficient period of time to ensure that the MoU was sufficiently embedded to provide meaningful findings. The long-term outcome of each mediated case was evaluated against a set of criteria which can be characterised as falling within three categories. 

Firstly, attention was given to a range of legal/administrative consequences that followed the mediation events including the following:-

a.              compliance with provisions of, and difficulties arising from, the MoU;

b.              whether or not the MoU was made into a consent order in the UK and subsequently registered in the overseas jurisdiction;

c.              the occurrence of further litigation, and the extent, outcome and impact of the litigation.



Secondly, attention was given to a number of aspects relating to the development of relationships between parents and children and the settlement of family units, including the following:-

       a.              the ability of the child to maintain a positive relationship with both parents;

       b.              the nature of the relationship between the parents;

       c.              the degree of settlement of the family as a whole.
Finally, there was a focus on the parental perceptions of the overall abduction experience and its outcomes, including the following:-

       a.              the taking parent´s view of the abduction experience and the subsequent outcome;

       b.              the left-behind parent´s view of the abduction experience and the subsequent outcome;

       c.              the effects on the child from the parents´ perspectives.

At the end of the research project, 52 parents had been interviewed. From this total of 52, there were 18 ‘pairs’ (i.e. a left-behind and taking parent previously involved in the same abduction/retention event). In addition to these 36 ‘paired’ individuals there were a further 16 individuals interviewed.

The key findings of this important report, in broad outline, are that:
  • In resolved cases, in general, both parents managed to maintain positive relationships with their children
  • The arrangements recorded in the MoU had been complied with in terms of residence and contact, and in relation to travel, school, medical and financial issues, and provided families with a significant framework to adhere to
  • In a majority of resolved cases the mediation process, and subsequent MoU, had provided those involved with an enduring template for their family relationships in the years following mediation
  • Parents in resolved cases reported that mediation had acted as a turning point and as a point of stability which guided their future conduct
  • There was no pattern of continued further litigation occurring in resolved cases
  • In unresolved cases, communication between the parents was minimal or non-existent, with much lower levels of trust than those found in resolved cases and consequently, worsening levels of conflict and of joint problem solving
  • In unresolved cases, many parents reported relationships with their children as ´damaged´ with underlying lack of trust between parents ´frequently played out via their children´
  • Parents in unresolved cases felt pressured to mediate by Judges, legal advisers or ex-partners 

·      There was a pattern of continued further litigation occurring in unresolved cases

·      Overall, both taking and left-behind parents were positive about the mediation process operated by reunite and were complimentary about the skills of reunite mediators

Other findings in the report include:
  • Confusion about the process of registering or ´mirroring´ the consent orders, leading to difficulties and obstacles to the maintenance of the contact regimes

·      Parents lack of knowledge about the return order mechanism of the 1980 Hague Convention and their shock at their actions as being ´unlawful´ and the association with criminal behaviour

·      The importance of ´filtering´ cases so that only those appropriate for mediation enter the mediation process

·      The importance of the skills of the mediators offering the reunite model of mediation

 Click here to download the full report.