International Cross-border Mediation

Every year, approximately 170.000 international couples in the European Union are facing a separation or divorce. Too often children are involved in these affairs. With the escalating conflict it happens that a parent takes the children abroad, causing a disconnection between the children and the remaining parent.


In 2011, Child Focus Belgium reported already well over 500 of such cases of child abduction. Both within the European Union and on International level, instruments have been developed to regulate these matters legally. However, these legal instruments work slowly and are often not dissuasive.

Investigation detected that in average more than one year is needed to solve these cases in a proper legal way, leaving the children, but also the parents, with the consequences of a traumatic experience.


If parents, through mediation, are offered a path towards an acceptable agreement, they will find much sooner an honorable and stable solution. Mediation is therefore an excellent instrument to support and accompany the parents in their dispute.

Mediation in an International environment requires obviously additional expertise and specific skills.

An international family mediator needs to know and understand, among others, the application of the international instruments and regulations. She must be able to work in light of the cultural differences and language problems and has to bridge the existing natural gaps.


Child Focus has trained over the past two years, in cooperation with the German MiKK, the KULeuven and the Dutch Centre IKO, mediators from many EU Member States as International Mediators in Family affairs.


The established network of recognized Mediators can assist couples with international family conflicts in finding solutions that take into account the specific cross-border character of their conflict and more specifically this network is formed to address affairs of international child abduction.

Since April 26th, 2012 Marleen Vaes is a recognized International Family Mediator.


Cross border mediation is a voluntary conciliation procedure offering couples the possibility, through the intermediary of experienced cross-border family mediators, to resolve their disputes with child abduction by one of the parents. 

Parties are assisted by the mediators to map and analyze the dispute. An important starting point is to formulate solutions which do justice to the child and are acceptable to both parents. Mediation aims to avoid a long lasting legal battle. 

In the case of child abduction by one of the parents, cross border mediation offers parties the assurance that the process of judicial proceedings in connection with the child is not slowed down or negatively influenced. The mediation runs alongside these procedures. 

Participation in the mediation has no influence on the entitlement of parties to prosecute through legal procedure. The judge will take no account of the fact that an attempt at mediation is undertaken, except of course when a previous agreement was concluded. 


Research indicates clearly that mediation agreements are more likely to be adhered to, as both parents have been individually involved in the decision-making process. Moreover, the future relationship between ex-couples is being stabilized and limits therefore the potential trauma for the child and the family as a whole.

More about the European Network Cross Border Mediation:

More about the European initiative:

More about the Trainers program: