Family mediation

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Family mediation is a way for families to restore or preserve family links and/or prevent the consequences of a possible rupture of links in the family. In theory, family mediation should be distinguished from conjugal and marital mediation in the sense that all the members of a family mediation are concerned and would have to participate in mediation. In practice, there is confusion between conjugal mediation and family mediation.


[edit] A Voluntary Approach

Family mediation is based on a so-called voluntary approach of the couples who also seek a parenting support.

While originally proposed to parents who wanted to maintain their parental roles and duties beyond a separation, family mediation is today proposed to the family in its diversity: parents, children, grandparents, siblings, stepfamilies... regarding separation, inheritance or support for seniors and/or dependent ones...

The family mediator, as a neutral and non-judge third party and during confidential interviews, provides a relational space enabling dialogue, listening, mutual respect and consultation, in order to help both parents to act, know their rights, duties and responsibilities, in view to reach common solutions and agreements that response to the needs of the family, especially those of the children.

During the registering of a complaint substantiated in the children's interests, most of the clerks of the court's office address to the parties, with the hearing convocation, a list of places for family mediation and the names of mediators with which they can attend a free session of information. This list is also available on request in the public reception in some tribunals. Weekly or monthly information sessions are also organized in some Courts, houses of justice and law, house of Childhood, held in turn by family mediators in order to inform and encourage families to use family mediation before initiating a legal proceeding and meeting the judge.

[edit] An Ordered Approach

The French Law regarding Divorce (2004) encourages family mediation and enables the judge, following agreement of the parties, to order the couple to meet a mediator for a free consultation (section 373-2-10 of the French Code Civil). Therefore the judge can use this order only if both parties agreed to meet the mediator. For professional mediators, this agreement constitutes the first agreement of mediation; this is therefore based on a positive start than mediation is initiated.

During a legal proceeding because of a rupture (marriage or not), the judge can suggest, encourage and even order the parties to go through a family mediation - but always under the condition of the agreement of the parties - when the couple does not communicate anymore or does not succeed to agree on the consequences of their separation (exercise of the parental authority, child support, right of visit and accommodation) or when the couple does not find an agreement regarding the contribution of each about the marriage or children maintenance and education charges.

The Professional Chamber of Mediation and Negotiation supports the idea of an obligation to enter into mediation in order to encourage the exercise of relational and contractual freedom instead of supporting the submission to the power struggles and constraints.

[edit] Family Mediation in France

Several associations of family mediation have requested the French State to recognize their specialty which is mainly practiced in structures related to the State (funded associations, CAF, UDAF...).

They have successfully obtained to creation of a national certificate of family mediation - Decree n° 2003-1166 of December 2, 2003, that has been questioned, particularly by the Professional Chamber of Mediation and Negotiation which requests its repeal, and worries the oldest existing associations which work in that area since the early 80’s, like for example "Parents-Enfants-Médiation" (Parents-Children-Mediation) because of the segmentation of mediation which often requires transversal skills rather than a specialization in a specific area of practice.

Several Universities have established classic and on-going formations regarding family concerns, either general or specialized.

[edit] The Bias for the Child

Family mediation is considered as a new approach that enables family members to take together decisions affecting them. It aims at keeping parenting beyond a conjugal separation, and therefore to safeguard the child's interests. In practice, mediators trained in family mediation tend to favor their viewpoint in the interest of the child at the expense of the parents' interests; that weakens the debates, tends to prejudge the parents (as if they did not care of their children's interests), and therefore make the agreement more difficult to reach.

[edit] Its Public

The public of family mediation are couples, married or not (see conjugal mediation), in situation of rupture or separation, stepfamilies, PACS couple, but also grandparents who are for example struggling to visit their grandchildren or heirs who are for example fighting in a case of succession. Family mediation can be undertaken at any time before, during or after a rupture or divorce. Some associations in France propose and practise family mediation for twenty years outside the legal system and have proved their effectiveness.

[edit] Absent Third Parties

The third parties who are absent are the parties concerned but generally not directly consulted:

  • Children
  • Grandparents

However, under certain conditions they can be present at a mediation session.

[edit] The Approach

The approach is primarily voluntary and participants must agree on the process that involves them in seeking a positive dialogue which excludes any winner-loser strategy. The Divorce Law (2004) encourages family mediation, and enables the judge, upon agreement of the parties, to order a couple to meet a mediator for a free information consultation (s. 373-2-10 of the Code Civil).

[edit] Conduct of Mediation

The family mediator should ensure his neutrality and impartiality. From the beginning, a contract between the protagonists is established by which they commit themselves to respect a number of things throughout the process: no verbal aggression, total confidentiality...

[edit] Role of the Mediator

The family mediator accompanies the family in times of conflicts exacerbation in order to restore a dialogue, reach acceptable agreements while taking into account everyone's interests - both parents and children.

[edit] The Family Judicial Mediation

The Family Affairs Judge (JAF in French) may propose a family mediation in case of disagreements regarding the modalities of exercise of parental authority or education duties.

A convention (written agreement between the parties during the mediation process) achieves mutual agreements regarding family relations. The convention will produce an official effect of law after approval of the JAF, the agreement will indeed be enforceable. However only the JAF can attribute the law in family matters, the conventions only cover the modalities of exercise of law in matter of parental authority: this is the principle of unavailability of parental authority and the principle of obligation of maintenance and education.

The recourse into family mediation is possible in all types of divorce, voluntary separation and cohabitation ruptures with children.

[edit] Cost of Mediation in France

A financial contribution is generally required from each parent.

The amount payable concerns each adult and is computed from the first meeting with the mediator who announced it in presence of each person.

In the beginning in July 2006, two circulars from the Caisse Nationale des Allocations Familiales (National Office of Family Credit) and the Caisse Centrale de la Mutualité Sociale Agricole (Central Office of Agricultural Mutual Insurance Fund), have present the framework of the partnership arrangement for the development and funding of family mediation.

The circular of September 18, 2006 of the Ministry of Justice, Service of Access to Law and Justice and of Urban Policy, has been addressed to each Court of Appeal concerning the national protocol for the development of family mediation.

Since then, the mediators and the departments, associations or agencies of family mediation are left to their own devices, some are subsidized and claim gratuitousness of their interventions, others return to their associative terms of annual subscriptions or divided according to the interviews, and some liberal mediators bill the fees of their interventions without any scale, except in case of missions assigned by the judges who sometimes indicate or fix the costs for the parties in their ordinances.

[edit] The Mediation Agreement

Following the mediation process, taken decisions can be recorded in a memorandum of agreement or remain oral. This will depend on the choices made by the protagonists. This protocol or convention must however be written and co-signed for approval by the JAF. This request for approval may be made outside any procedure.

[edit] The International Family Mediation

[edit] Books about Mediation and Training of Mediators

  • Practice of Mediation, an Alternative Dispute Resolution, Jean-Louis Lascoux, Publisher: ESF, 3rd ed. 2004 (in French)

[edit] Books about Family Mediation

  • Guide for the family mediator: Family mediation, step by step, Annie Babu, Publisher Eres, 2006 (in French)
  • Divorce and Mediation, Edition de l'Officine, Francine Summa, 2005 (in French)
  • The Family Mediation, New children, new parents, Edition de l'Officine, Francine Summa, 2004 (in French)
  • How to succeed your mediation, Edition de l'Officine, Francine Summa, 2002 (in French)

[edit] Internal Links

[edit] Specialized in France

[edit] Generalists in France

[edit] Institution

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