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When a family conflict leads to international child abduction by Missing Children

In the EU approximately 130.000 international couples file for divorce annually. Children are involved in many of these cases. If a family conflict escalates, this can often lead to an international child abduction or parental abduction.

An international child abduction refers to one parent taking the child to another country (often his or her of origin) without the consent of the other parent. These types of abductions happen more than 1000 times per year in the EU alone. Often, the abducting parent is not even aware of the fact that he or she is committing an abduction or a crime and is surprised when faced with return proceedings or forced to go back.

International child abductions have a negative impact on the wellbeing of the children involved. Court proceedings to resolve abductions often take a lot of time (on average almost a year) and are very stressful for both the parents and children.

Additionally, children are hardly or not informed at all of the process or updates which leads to feelings of helplessness and frustration. Children also miss their usual environment, school, friends and their left behind family.

When parents can find an acceptable (to both) solution to their conflict, this positively benefits the child’s wellbeing. Ideally, this should happen before one parent decides unilaterally to leave with the child(ren). But even after an international child abduction takes place, it is possible and worthwhile to try to find a solution. Mediation is hugely beneficial in these cases. But in an international context, mediators need specific expertise and knowledge on dealing with specific inter cultural and legal challenges. When deciding on parental rights, habitual residence and visitation rights, distances and language barriers need to be overcome. Differences in family law and international private law must additionally be taken into consideration and cultural differences can pose a serious challenge.

To meet these needs, Missing Children Europe trained the network  of Cross Border Family Mediators who receive specific training to mediate these cross-border family conflicts. Mediators prevent and resolve cases of family conflict including but not limited to  cases of international child abduction.

To find a cross-border family mediator, go to the Network of Cross-Border Family Mediators: The network additionally provides information about the possibilities and limits of mediation for individual cases at no cost or obligation.

The network can aid in initiating an international co-mediation:
– when your child is taken abroad;
– when you want to move abroad;
– when you fear an abduction by the other parent;
– when you want your child to live abroad with you.

For more information, contact the author of this article, Hilde Demarre at:

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