We are here to help you.
We understand the difficult issues surrounding international cases involving children. Whatever your situation may be, it will be a highly emotional and stressful time for you. We encourage you to speak with a member of our mediation team, who will explain the mediation process to you and together you can consider how best to take your enquiry forward.
To start the mediation process we will ask you to complete and return a copy of our Parent Questionnaire. The Questionnaire will ask for contact details and other important information, such any language needs, so that we can start to move your case forward. Once we received your Questionnaire the next step is for us to arrange the assessment meetings.
If you’d like to get started we can send you a copy of the Parent Questionnaire by email or you can download it from here.
Costs and Legal Aid
Our team will discuss the costs of mediation with you, along with the possibility of legal aid funding. Whether you are entitled to legal aid will depend on your case and you financial situation. In some cases legal aid for mediation will be given automatically, such as if you are living overseas and you are using the 1980 Hague Convention to ask for the return of your child from the UK. If our team feels you could be entitled to legal aid they will provide you with the appropriate application form. You will need to complete and return the form along with any other evidence you are asked to provide.
If you are not entitled to legal aid we will discuss your situation and if you have limited resources we can consider mediating on a Pro Bono basis.
Once we have received your Parent Questionnaire we will organise for you to have a assessment meeting with one of our mediators. The meeting allows our mediators to explain more about the mediation process, understand a bit of the history that has led to your current situation and identify the issues that will for discussion in the mediation. This is also an opportunity for you to ask the mediator any questions you may have and you can discuss any issues that you may be unsure about. After speaking with you and the other parent the mediator will decide whether your case is suitable for mediation.
We understand that for many parents it can be extremely daunting to consider meeting together in mediation to talk about such highly emotive issues. Our mediators are sensitive to the different dynamics formed within relationships and will take into consideration any domestic abuse and power imbalances when assessing the suitability of a case for mediation. In cases where there is a history of domestic abuse, mediation can still be very effective and our mediators follow strict safety procedures to ensure and accommodate the safety of parents within mediation.
If there are concerns, mediation can take place by skype or other internet platform so that you and your child’s other parent don’t need to be in the same place. Similarly, the mediators can shuttle between participants so there is no direct communication.
There are many factors that a mediator will take into consideration when deciding if a case is suitable for mediation or not, and therefore there a number of reasons why a case may not be considered suitable. It could be that a parent does not wish to mediate, or does not engage with the mediation process. There could be concerns around safeguarding of children or the parties involved. It could be that there is not common ground between the parties to mediate on, they both just want completely different things.
If your case is decided to be unsuitable for mediation we are not able to tell you the exact reason why. Instead we will explain that your case cannot progress through to mediation and direct you to other sources of support, such as our advice line who can advise you on your options moving forward.
We can reassure you that everything you discuss with us will remain confidential. Any information received before, during or after mediation cannot be disclosed or used in court, unless:
- as required by law, including reporting a child in need of protection;
- when the information discloses an actual or potential threat to human life or safety;
- for research, statistical, accreditation or educational purposes, provided the information does not directly or indirectly disclose the identity of any participant;
- for any certificate or report that the mediator is required to prepare.
Once your case has been accepted, we will draw up a timetable for the mediation sessions to happen. We will take into account both parents’ availability and the need to fit in with any court hearings. For child abduction cases, we will usually schedule three mediation sessions over two or three consecutive days, with each session lasting up to 3 hours. For other cases, such as contact and international relocation cases, we may arrange the sessions differently so that they are appropriate for the situation.
Mediating by Zoom or other internet platforms
Traditionally, parents and mediators would meet in the same room to mediate. As we deal with a large number of international cases we appreciate this is not always ideal or possible. As a result we have adapted our practice and regularly mediate by Zoom or other internet platforms. The mediator who undertakes your assessment meeting will identify how best to arrange mediation in your case, including the possibility of mediating over the internet.
Reaching an agreement
If you and your child’s other parent are able to reach an agreement, we will draw up Memorandum of Understanding (sometimes referred to as an MoU). An MoU sets out everything that has been agreed, but is not legally binding until it’s presented to the court. We will then send a copy of the MoU to your lawyers, if you have legal representation, so that it can then be presented to the court to be made into a legally binding court order.
Registering the agreement in court
An MoU reached in mediation cannot be relied on in court as evidence as it is not legally binding until it is made in to a court order. You will therefore need to seek legal advice about the process of making the MoU in to a legally binding order in the country that has jurisdiction over your child.
If your child will be travelling to another country as part of the agreement, or there are ongoing proceedings in another country, we would recommend that the consent order is mirrored or recognised in that country. This will make your agreement legally binding in both countries.