14-20 October: International Mediation Week: a successful solution in child abduction cases

14 September 2019


Athens, 14 October 2019


14-20 October: International Mediation Week: a successful solution in child abduction cases


14 October 2019 – Today marks the beginning of International Mediation Week that aims to promote the importance of family mediation in parental child abduction cases. Mediation remains a solution that is not sufficiently used in Europe although research by ‘Missing Children Europe’ revealed that children want their parents to find solutions in these conflicts and believe mediation can be helpful among others in the cases of parental child abductions.


On the occasion of International Mediation Week Missing Children Europe together with its national members from across Europe, among them ‘The Smile of the Child’ in Greece, and the international mediation networks organize awareness raising initiatives with the goal to promote the importance of family mediation in cases of parental child abduction.


The primary goal is to promote mediation and make it known among parents, mediators, professionals - such as lawyers - in order to be understood and promoted by legal counsel and assistance bodies as the best solution to ensure the well-being of the child. Despite its success rate, mediation remains a solution that is not sufficiently utilized in Europe.


In Europe, a continent without borders, international marriages are increasingly commonplace. In recent years, there were about 250 thousand marriages between a foreigner and a national in Europe and the proportion of mixed marriages on the total number of marriages was 15%. In some cases, the marriage falls apart and escalates into a family conflict. When a parent takes their child to another country without the permission of the other parent, we deal with international child abduction. In Europe, parental child abductions account for ¼ of the missing children cases reported to the European missing children hotlines.

Going to court seems to be the most obvious solution to resolve family conflicts, but this experience can be very traumatic for not only the parents, who often end up in a legal custody battle for years, but also the children, who are trapped in the middle of the conflict. Instead, international family mediation has proven to be a more efficient and less conflictual procedure. In mediation, trained professional engages directly with the parents to find a solution that reflects the specific family situation, is acceptable for both parties and places the needs and wellbeing of the children at the centre of the process.

”Children are convinced that their parents are best placed to take decisions on their future. They want their parents to find solutions together and believe their parents are capable. But sometimes, when conflicts are high, they might need some help to refocus on the best interest of their children. Then, mediation can be an excellent tool to help parents’, says Hilde Demarré, Policy Officer at Missing Children Europe.


Mediation is voluntary and confidential. As a result, mediation agreements tend to work more in the long run because both parents find it as a fair solution. It is also more time and cost effective than court litigation.


In the course of 2018 ‘The Smile of the Child’ received 191 requests at the European Hotline for Missing Children 116000 for the support of search and rescue operations for missing children, out of which 5,2%  concerned cases of parental child abduction.


Respectively, in the 1st semester of 2019 the Organization received 59 similar requests, out of which 3,4% concerned cases of parental child abduction.

Missing Children Europe is the European Federation for Missing and Sexually Exploited Children, representing 32 organisations from 27 European countries. Missing Children Europe coordinates the Cross-Border Family Mediators Network that consists of over 200 trained family mediators who help prevent and resolve cross-border family conflicts including parental abduction. ‘The Smile of the Child’ is founding member of Missing Children Europe and member of its Board of Directors.

Find out more about cross-border family mediation here.

What is mediation and how does it work? Watch the video here.

Media contact:  
Hilde Demarré
Policy Officer, Missing Children Europe
+32 478 97 87 76


Panos Pardalis
Communications Officer, “The Smile of the Child”
+30 210 3306 140