MIAMs Now Compulsory For Separating Couples
With the introduction of The Children and Families Act 2014 on 22 April, separating couples must now attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (‘MIAM’) before they are able to start proceedings in the family courts in relation to money or children issues.
The aim of this is to increase the number of couples resolving their disputes through mediation rather than going through the courts.
What impact will these changes have?
Far too often, mediation is overlooked as a pragmatic and cheaper alternative to litigation. It is seen by some in the family law profession as a soft option, and not as a serious alternative to litigation. This is a great shame as far too many family disputes end up in Court when they could and should have been mediated.
It is vital that clients are provided with information regarding mediation and its benefits from the outset, and it is clear that this is simply not happening in many cases. Forcing couples to learn about mediation will change this.
It is only when clients are equipped with all of the information about their options for resolving disputes that they are able to make an informed decision as to which route they wish to take.
There will always be some disputes which are unsuited to mediation, for example where one party gives a dishonest account of their finances. But making MIAMs compulsory is likely to steer divorcing couples away from the Courts and change the culture of dispute resolution for good.
As a recently qualified mediator, I welcome this recent change, and hope that many more couples will come to recognise the significant benefits of mediation, and will make mediation their first port of call.
What is a MIAM?
At a MIAM, a qualified mediator provides information about the mediation process and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. The mediator will seek to understand the issues and ask questions to establish whether a case is suitable for mediation. Separating couples can attend the meeting together or separately if they wish.
If the mediator is of the view that mediation is an appropriate process for the couple and both parties wish to proceed, then mediation can continue with the same mediator.
If the mediator is of the view that mediation is not appropriate, then court proceedings can be issued by either party.
Whilst education through MIAMs is compulsory save in specific circumstances, attending mediation itself is not. This is still a wholly voluntary process.
Are there any exceptions?
Under the new legislation, there are certain cases which are exempt from this requirement, such as where there are issues involving domestic violence. A full list of the exceptions can be found by following this link.
For further information or to arrange a MIAM, please contact the family department at firstname.lastname@example.org.