From Child Protection to Family Mediation. Member Spotlight: Odeta Intė

Odeta is a family mediator based in Vilnius, Lithuania, with more than 20 years experience of working with family issues. For more than 14 years she was a director of the State Child Protection and Adoption Service, under the Ministry of Social Security and Labor. While working for this institution, she found out about family mediation and started to look for ways to learn and improve her skills. She started an adventure with mediation in 2008 while pursuing the first training on cross-border family mediation with MiKK, co-financed by the European Commission. Currently, she serves as chief of the Lithuanian Mediators Chamber. On top of her mediation practice, Odeta is also a lecturer at Mykolas Romeris University, teaching courses in family mediation, mediation strategies, and mediation in work conflicts.

Inspired to support families

“At that moment when I discovered mediation in 2008, I had a quite difficult case with child issues, child abduction,” Odeta says, “this case is quite quell known, it was in the European Court of Justice. It was a strong conflict between the father and mother. I found out that through mediation we can find other ways to help parents find their solution and reach an agreement.” In Lithuania mediation is still a new thing, it became popular just 2 years ago, but even after such a short time, it is mandatory in family disputes – before going to court, at first the family has to see a mediator. According to Odeta, it is very clear that there is no better way to solve family disputes than mediation. If it is only the court decision, only one party wins, one loses and children are affected. Mediation allows one to find a decision that is good for both parties.

With the belief that there is always a need to grow and expand our expertise, 2 years ago Odeta became a member of Mediators Beyond Borders International. It provides her with opportunities to learn about other ways of conducting the mediation, improve her professional skills, step out of her comfort zone and work on a wider scope of issues.

Achievements and challenges for mediation in Lithuania

Speaking about things that she is the proudest of, and the latest improvements in the situation of mediation in Lithuania, Odeta mentions that she and her colleagues actually contributed to it through their advocacy. “When I was a director of the State Child Protection and Adoption Service, I had quite a lot of people I knew in politics,” she says. “Me and my colleagues started advocacy on mediation. Before everybody thought that mediation is the same as meditation, there was no practice at all.” Thanks to this advocacy, the Minister of Justice created a special group that Odeta was also a member of. They prepared guidelines and strategies for mediation in Lithuania and took quite an active part in preparing the mediation law.

However there are still challenges to mediation in Lithuania, and one of them is the qualification of mediators. To practice as a mediator, candidates have to complete 40 hours of special education and pass the exam with commission divided into two parts: theoretical, test on law and mediation, and practical which is a simulation, the candidate must use their skills in practice. There is also an exception for judges, lawyers, and advocates who do not have to pass the exam. Unfortunately, with that small amount of hours, it is visible that the level of mediators and service they provide is quite low. The big challenge now is to work on improving the quality of the mediator’s service in Lithuania. When it comes to the current development, achievements, and challenges, Odeta is also a co-author of the article: Mandatory mediation in family disputes in Lithuania: model and first year application experience, published in 2021 as a part of ADR – local solutions in a global context.

Article by Maciej Witek, MBBI Writer