The Netherlands has created a unique type of mediation for international child abduction, in cooperation with the courts in The Hague, the Mediation Bureau in Hilversum and the Central Authority: Cross Border Mediation (‘CBM’).
Emotions often run wild after a child has been taken or has been concealed (kept) by one of the parents. Often, the situation prior to the (potential) abduction is already difficult and communication is not going smoothly. It quite often happens that you, as parents, have not had a real conversation about the children for a long time, because a large distance has come about due to strongly differing views.
When is Cross Border Mediation offered?
CBM is already offered in the letter in which the Central Authority asks the parent-abductor to voluntarily return to the country in which the child has his/her ordinary place of residence.
The offer is repeated during the pre-trial hearing before the district court.
Parents can use the CBM-option in the appeal stage as well.
It provides a unique opportunity to enter into a dialogue as parents about the situation that has risen, under the guidance of specially trained Mediators.
As parents you are and remain responsible for the choices to be made on behalf of your child, now and in the future.
Even if you think you have a strong case, a return often merely results in a ‘quick win’, because often in the country where the child has his/her ordinary residence quite a few procedures about custody/parental authority, the principal place of residence and the access arrangement follow. It often happens that the judge is asked to grant (alternative) permission to move.
Agreements you are able to make together as parents are often more lasting, because you both agree and are able to weigh all the facts and circumstances at hand.
What can you reach in Cross Border Mediation?
- Complete agreement about the child’s principal place of residence. At the same time, a parental access arrangement is established for the parent who is not the primary carer. The arrangements are laid down in an agreement.
- Partial agreement; no agreement is reached on the principal residence but parents manage to make arrangements about contact as well as other arrangements if the child is living in one country or in the other. We refer to this as a ‘mirror agreement’. The judge will still have to decide whether to send a child back or not, but at least arrangements about where to go from here are in place.
- No agreement. In that case, a hearing with the district court is scheduled.
In two third of the cases the parents manage to make arrangements in the CBM, on matters such as passports, language, religion, medical matters, education, contact with family members and other practical issues, such as the costs pertaining to contact/access.
Are the arrangements valid in another country?
The Mediators pay attention to this. The lawyers of the parents are asked to remain stand-by during the entire mediation and the lawyers are called during the process to inform them on the course of the CBM, enabling the parties to gain legal advice on the background, if necessary.
Who are the Mediators?
We always work with 2 Mediators, who have received a special education and training in this field: a behavioural expert and a lawyer who is specialized in international family law. The Mediators are always neutral.
How long does the CBM take? Does this delay the proceedings?
The CBM occurs in 3 sessions of 3 hours, spread across 2 days, with at least a night in between. Short and to the point, because one of the parents often needs to travel from abroad for the CBM.
The CBM is planned around the time of the first pre-trial hearing before the district court and in no way delays the Child Abduction Proceedings.
How is the child given a position in the CBM?
There is always a conversation with the child prior to the Mediation. This conversation is conducted by an expert on children, who is not one of the Mediators.
What does a CBM cost?
Funded legal aid is available, in which the parents only pay a personal contribution depending on a verification of the income. The Ministry of Security and Justice provides subsidy for cross border mediations in international child abduction cases.
Can CBM also be called on in the case of impending abduction or intended international relocation?
Yes, judges in the Netherlands can also refer to CBM in cases where no abduction has taken place. Ask your lawyer to file the application.
Can CBM also be called on in the case of compulsory returns, i.e. after the ruling?
Yes, CBM can play a role in those cases too. The parents can enter into a dialogue about the conditions in order to agree on the return of the children in a manner that is as safe as possible and is not too burdensome on the children.
Who calls on the CBM?
In the Netherlands the Mediation Bureau is linked to the Centre for International Child Abductions and is responsible for the execution of the CBM. A representative of the bureau takes matters in hand.