For professionals working on parental child abduction
 

How can we collaborate together?

Cross-border disputes in family matters continue to rise in the EU as the number of international families increases . While the variety of cultural and social mix is a richness, it can also become a challenge, in particular when various legal traditions have to interact. This requires all stakeholders to invest in dialogue and closer cooperation.

Alongside the international judicial instruments available to handle parental child abduction, we believe there are increasing grounds for more cooperation among all the professionals involved in this area, within the EU and with third countries.

In this context, the European Parliament Coordinator believes she has a role to play. Taking advantage of the supranational nature of her position and the weight of an institution like the Parliament, she is well-positioned to encourage constructive dialogue and raise issues on behalf of those directly working in this area who identify issues of concern in an EU Member State or third country.

For the current mandate, the office of the Coordinator has several objectives:

  • to increase the awareness and the use of mediation among the judiciary
  • to encourage and support the existing networks of professionals along with promoting and ensuring high quality standards
  • to advocate for child-friendly justice systems in the EU Member States
  • to gather information about the difficulties and issues that you are facing related to your professional practices in the area of parental child abduction
  • to make the best use of the European Parliament’s dialogue forums

Increasing the awareness and the use of mediation

The Coordinator believes that mediation presents a viable and efficient way to solve cross-border family disputes. The decision of a Hague Convention court on the return of a child is often only the beginning of long legal battles that can accompany a child until adulthood.

Mediation can help avoid long and costly court battles by assisting parents to reach a joint decision to either ensure the early return of the child or prevent the unnecessary relocation of the child. It can enable parents to find long lasting solutions taking into account all issues in dispute between them.

We believe there is a large field of actions in order to encourage the take up of mediation in the EU. While this alternative dispute resolution can be faster, less costly and efficient both for the families involved but also for our European courts, only few parental abduction cases go to mediation.

Working closely with the European Commission DG Justice , we wish to advocate a wider use of mediation in cross-border family disputes. With the cooperation of our judicial and other partner’s we wish to identify legal and practical solutions to increase the use of mediation.

As lawyers and Central Authorities are the first point of contact for parents experiencing a cross-border abduction, we seek to encourage these key people to understand the benefits of mediation in order that they can introduce it to parents as a means of resolution at an early stage of the process.

Do not hesitate to contact our office  to seek for further collaboration in this area.

Encouraging and supporting the existing network of professionals along with promoting and ensuring high quality standards

Central Authorities in all contracting parties to the Hague Convention remain central to the successful conclusion of child return proceedings. We wish to continue forging strong relationships with these Authorities with the aim to promote timely action, good communication and mutual trust between authorities. We aim to identify recurring issues they are facing in order to address them at a supranational level.

The office of the Coordinator is working closely with cross-border mediators’ associations and NGOs. We support organisations that provide high standards of professionalism and ethics;  MIKK (Germany),  the International Social Services , Reunite UK , Missing Children Europe (Belgium),  Centrum IKO (The Netherlands) . Thereby we wish to ensure that we refer parents to professionals with the necessary knowledge and training to assist them in the most efficient and professional way through finding a viable and long lasting agreement, in the best interest of the child.

We also trustfully work on a regular basis with the Lawyers in Europe on Parental Child Abduction (LEPCA) , an association of lawyers specialized in parental child abduction, a European Commission funded project that offers specific trainings to lawyers in this field. We are very much aware that the complexity of the judicial proceedings require a thorough expertise and experience in the private international law instruments, and we encourage parents to seek advice with recognized professionals.

We are also collaborating with the European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters , through several of its Working Groups, which gives us many opportunities to share with judiciary professionals in EU Member States, with Central Authorities, with the European Commission, with the Council. We will also be reaching out to all relevant associations.

If you belong to these professional associations and want to explore potential collaboration, please do not hesitate to contact our office .

Advocating the development of child-friendly justice systems

Judicial systems in Europe are not always adapted to the specific needs of children. The  2015 Commission report  shows that there remains much work to do to make justice across the EU truly child-friendly.

One particular aspect is hearing the child in judicial proceedings concerning them. In cases of parental child abduction and custody, the hearing of the child is increasingly more common in the EU. In the recast of the Brussels IIa regulation, there is an agreement to add a provision that should be inspired, at a minimum, by Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child . Training and professional standards for those charged with hearing the child is essential. Great skill is required to ensure that the views of the child are heard and considered in a meaningful way.

While much progress has been made in realising this obligation in the Member States, there remains work to be done to ensure that the child is heard in an appropriate, meaningful and safe way.

The Coordinator wishes to support the work of Member States in implementing the best practices to hear the child.

The Coordinator encourages the training of judicial and administrative bodies tasked with the hearing of the child.

The Coordinator also seeks to foster the introduction of child inclusive mediation and the introduction of professional standards and training for cross-border mediators working with children.

 
 

Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 

1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.

Article 24(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union , states that: "Children(…) may express their views freely. Such views shall be taken into consideration on matters which concern them in accordance with their age and maturity."

Council of Europe Recommendation on the participation of children and young people under the age of 18. 

Gathering information

We would like to know about the recurring difficulties and issues that you are facing in the area of cross-border family disputes, parental child abduction and cross-border access disputes. It can be related to a specific aspect (e.g. delays, execution of order, etc.) or to a region or a country that you are working with. With these insights, we can collect valuable information and identify structural trends that will feed our action, could feed policy-making and foster new collaborations.

If you want to explore potential collaboration, please do not hesitate to  contact our office. 

 
 

Making the best use of the European Parliament’s various dialogue forums

The European Parliament is a place for dialogue, dialogue among the elected representatives of the EU Member States, dialogue with the elected members of a wide variety of third countries through inter-parliamentary delegations, dialogue with organisations and interest groups of all kind from all around the world.

It is of this unique richness that we wish to make the most of and benefit from this variety of forums to exchange on best practices, to foster better cooperation and better communication among the professionals involved in the parental child abduction cases and policy-making.

 
 

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