The European Parliament Mediator for International Parental Child Abduction

 
 

The post of the European Parliament Mediator for International Parental Child Abduction was created in 1987 on the initiative of Lord Plumb, in order to help children from binational marriages that have broken down who have been abducted by one or other parent. Roberta Angelilli was appointed EP Mediator in 2009, following Marie-Claude Vayssade (1987-1994), Mary Banotti (1995-2004) and Evelyne Gebhardt (2004-2009).

The role of the Mediator is to try to find a voluntary agreement between the abducting parent and the other parent, the best interests of their child(ren) always being paramount. As each child has a right to both parents, either parent can request a mediation procedure.

 
 
What is Mediation?

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that aims to determinate the positive management of conflicts. Its goal is to induce the parties to find a solution mutually acceptable and satisfactory through the assistance of one third: the mediator.

For the cases of international child abduction, scope of the mediation is achieving a negotiated agreement in the exclusive interest of the minor. The main responsibility of the European Parliament Mediator for International Parental Child Abduction is to assist the parents in finding the best solution for the well-being of their child. Therefore it must be stressed that the Mediator's fundamental duty is to ensure that the best interests of an abducted child are served. In order to save children and parents the emotional and psychological strain arising from legal proceedings, the EP Mediator provides information and advises on the alternative way to settle the dispute, namely mediation.

 
 
Methods of the mediation procedure

The parents who wish to undertake a mediation procedure are convened to the European Parliament or the place of residence of the minor (depending from the circumstances of the case) to discuss their dispute openly outside of the rigid legal process; the procedure offers authoritative and valid support in seeking to make such discussion possible and beneficial.

To ensure the effectiveness and professionalism of a mediation session, the EP Child Abduction Mediator helps to put together an appropriate team of mediators for each particular case..

Advantages of the procedure and effects.

An agreement reached by the parties during a mediation procedure can avoid unnecessary relocation of the child, allows the parents actively and purposefully to address all issues affecting the family and is speedier and less costly than court proceedings. Once understood, accepted and signed by the parties, the agreement can be brought before the courts, which can formalise its terms in a cou rt order that will be recognised and enforceable in other countries.

 
 
The role of the Mediator

The number of binational marriages in the EU is constantly growing. When such a marriage breaks down the ex-partners often decide to return to their country of origin. If a couple has a common child the situation can become very complicated. Frequently, once parents have separated, the parent who does not have custody of the child(ren) abducts them or refuses to send them back following an access visit. Another scenario is even more common: children are removed or retained by their primary carer, but without the permission of the other parent. This is in breach of the legal rights of the other parent and often leads to court proceedings.

The main responsibility of the European Parliament Mediator for International Parental Child Abduction is to assist the parents in finding the best solution for the well-being of their child.

Therefore, Mediator's principal goal and duty is to ensure the protection of the children's rights in any dispute involving their parents, by helping the parents themselves to achieve a negotiated solution in the exclusive interest of their child(ren).

The Mediator of the EP offers a human solution to human cases.

The controversy between parents is solved outside the rigid legal proceeding but preserving, at the same time, the legality and the observance of the fundamental rights in a more "approachable" way, the way of the mediation.

Our purpose is to help parents to avoid unnecessary legal wars and find a compromise in order to achieve the common interest to preserve the well-being of their child(ren).

The Ombudsman of the European Parliament offers both legal and psychological support to parents involved in such sensitive issues of their lives and deals with the cases submitted to its attention with a balanced approach, providing technical advice and also human understanding.

The agreement eventually reached at the end of a mediation procedure, accepted and signed by the parties, can be brought before the courts, which can formalise its terms in a court order that will be recognised and enforceable in other countries.

 
 
Example of a case

A family dispute involving a French mother and an Israeli father concerning custody rights was submitted to the EP mediator for cases of international child abduction.

The parents never cohabited and two years after the birth of the child, the father took the mother to court to try and secure joint custody so that he could contribute to the child's development and actively participate in his life.

Initially, the mother agreed to move to Israel, but a few months later she returned to France to look after her ailing mother, taking the child with her. The father then instituted international parental child abduction proceedings against her.

At this point the mother referred the case to the European Parliament's Mediator for cases of international child abduction, Roberta Angelilli, who, together with her legal advisor Simona Mangiante, organised the mediation procedure. It was conducted on the European Parliament’s premises, with both parties taking part via video conference.

The procedure resulted in a mediation agreement, which includes the establishment of the child's place of residence, parental custody and access rights.

 
 
Tools
 
 
The European Parliament Mediator for International Parental Child Abduction
 
 
 
Article 24 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union
The rights of the child
 
  1. Children shall have the right to such protection and care as is necessary for their well-being. They may express their views freely. Such views shall be taken into consideration on matters which concern them in accordance with their age and maturity.
  2. In all actions relating to children, whether taken by public authorities or private institutions, the child's best interests must be a primary consideration.
  3. Every child shall have the right to maintain on a regular basis a personal relationship and direct contact with both his or her parents, unless that is contrary to his or her interests.