Mediation for *Hague Convention and Relocation Cases*
Article By: PracticeForte Advisory Affiliate Ms. Susan Tay of OTP Law Corporation
Cross-border family disputes: Hague and Relocation Cases
Singapore has picked up a reputation as a metropolitan, expat-friendly city. In fact, 1 in 3 marriages in Singapore now involve at least one foreigner.
No doubt this is a boon for multiculturalism. But when it comes to family disputes that involve children, a cross-border marriage could complicate matters. A breakdown of a cross-border marriage makes it much more likely that one parent wants to leave the country with the children. After all, foreign parents usually maintain a connection with their home countries which they gravitate when things take a turn for the worse.
If the child has already been moved, the left-behind parent may be tempted to immediately bring Hague proceedings. Similarly, a parent faced with a relocation request or proceeding may initially refuse to consent.
Often, this impulse arises because the parent feels alienated from the decision-making process. Huge concerns like being unable to see or contact the child or being unsure about how the child is doing or will do in another country are also commonplace.
But from our experience, going straight to litigation often results in a “win-lose” situation that does not address the root of the problem. As such, we want to present an alternative solution: mediation
Why mediate for Hague and relocation cases?
While the lower cost is often the first thing that comes to mind, certain facets of Hague and relocation cases make them particularly suited to mediation.
Mediation asks both parents to reflect on what is best for the child
The mediation process first pushes parents to think about and talk about what is best for the child. The reflection is important because personal reasons sometimes drive the desire to relocate, instead of the child’s interests. Sadly, it is a step that parents often overlook when litigation is the first stop.
Further, when a relationship breaks down, the lines of communication often do as well. Take a relocating parent that has family who can help with childcare, or who is better able to financially support the child overseas. Though it may seem clear to that parent that relocating is best for the child, the other parent cannot be expected to agree if he is completely in the dark about these reasons.
Mediation can happen at any time
Litigation can be time-sensitive: Hague proceedings are often very time sensitive (recommended to be completed within 6 weeks, which often is the reason for the high legal costs involved as well) and rushed. If mediation is initiated shortly before Hague proceedings, both parties can be motivated to resolve their differences expeditiously before the court takes over. Not much paper work is needed at mediation. All it takes is parties’ willingness to listen earnestly and speak candidly.
In cases where the child has already been relocated but there is a delay in filing Hague proceedings, it may no longer be a viable route. Mediation does not face the same constraints. It fact, in such situations, it may be the only way to bring the other party back to the table.
Mediation can also happen during court proceedings.
Mediation is confidential
Everything that is said in mediation is confidential and is therefore a safe place for parties to speak freely. With the help of a mediator, parties will be navigated towards a conversation that will reveal their concerns and interests.
Mediation can be a trust building exercise
A parent facing the relocation of his or her child will inevitably be anxious. A lot of the time, they fear that the relocation will hurt their relationship with the child, or that the child will be worse off. Many of these fears are deep-rooted because of their distrust of the other parent.
While mediation does not restore trust overnight, it is a step in the trust-building exercise. It gives one parent the opportunity to air their concerns, and the other, the opportunity to listen and take steps to address them.
Mediation means that you can control the outcome
Mediation encourages parents to come up with creative solutions tailored to the Child’s and their own needs.
In contrast, the litigation route takes the agency from the parents and puts it into the judge’s hands. This can be a daunting thought, particularly for Hague cases, where the complex and multi-jurisdictional legal issues involved means that the outcome is never certain.
Mediation means it is more likely that both parents will comply with the agreement
When it comes to children, we often see situations where parents do not comply with the court order when the judge does not rule their way. This is especially where it concerns access of the children.
Forcing the other parent to comply with the order involves a lot of expense and stress – even more so when the other parent is overseas. it would be infinitely preferable if parents are themselves incentivised to follow the order.
Mediation makes compliance more likely, since a settlement reached at mediation is based on both parties’ consent. Ideally, it is a settlement reached with an understanding of what the order would entail and why they agreed to it.
Mediation preserves the co-parenting relationship
Most importantly, compared to litigation, mediation is more conducive to preserving the co-parenting relationship between parents. In contrast to litigation, where parents often pit themselves against each other to prove their point on where the child should live, mediation encourages parents to work together to address any problems that may arise in the relocation or return.
It is our hope that by going through the mediation process, you will have a better chance of long-term parental cooperation with your co-parent for your child’s sake – even across borders.
This is part 1 of our series on mediation for Hague and relocation cases. Watch this space for part 2, which will address the drawbacks of litigation for Hague and relocation cases, and cases where mediation may be challenging.
*Hague cases are cases involving Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and Relocation cases are cases involving one parent intending to relocate with his/her child/children.
Written by Isabel Chew-Lau under supervision of Susan Tay
This article is published in conjunction with PracticeForte’s Project Relocation initiative.
ABOUT PRACTICEFORTE’S PROJECT RELOCATION
Started in July 2017 by the Family Division of PracticeForte Advisory, this project is an initiative to make legal help more accessible to spouses in overcoming the legal challenges to obtain court consent to return to their countries of origin with their children for the welfare of the children.
Project Relocation is part of PracticeForte Advisory’s ongoing efforts ot further our twin pillar focus of “Building Peace, Building Expertise”.
ABOUT PRACTICEFORTE ADVISORY
PracticeForte Advisory is a network of independent professional advisory firms comprising, amongst others, lawyers, mediators, accountants, forensic experts and others. This niche group of professional advisory firms are banded together under the brand name: PracticeForte Advisory.
ABOUT PRACTICEFORTE FAMILY DIVISION
PracticeForte Family Division comprises of specialist practitioners of Family Law including lawyers focused on matrimonial issue, mediators trained in resolving all family concerns: parenting coordinators to assist parents in their co-parenting journeys, counsellors and therapists.
OTP LAW CORPORATION is part of PracticeForte Advisory and its director, Ms Susan Tay is a member of the PracticeForte Family Division. Susan has had experience in representing parties as their lawyer in applications relating to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction as well as relocation applications with the Family Justice Courts, Singapore. Susan is a trained parenting coordinator. She is also a mediator and is accredited on various panels as a family mediator. In particular, she is specially trained in cross border mediation for family conflict and child abduction and is accredited as one of the mediators with MiKK e.V International Mediation Centre for Family Conflict and Child Abduction.
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