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Divorce law blog

What is a MIAM?

25/11/2014   By: Jane Booth

“MIAM” stands for Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. It is a meeting where a mediator will provide you with information on mediation and other ways to resolve the issues arising from your separation or divorce. The mediator will discuss with you whether mediation or another form of family dispute resolution is suitable for you given your particular circumstances. The focus is on trying to keep things out of court.

Before filing an application to the court for private law children proceedings or financial remedy on divorce, you (providing you are the applicant) are required to attend a MIAM. This requirement was strengthened and given statutory force earlier this year. 

Any application to court must be accompanied by a form containing confirmation from an authorised family mediator that either:

  1. the applicant has attended a MIAM;
  2. one of the “MIAM exemptions” applies; or
  3. a “mediator's exemption” applies (for example, that in their opinion the case is not suitable for mediation)

The MIAM exemptions are:

  • Domestic violence
  • Child protection concerns
  • Urgency
  • Previous MIAM attendance or MIAM exemption
  • Other (some examples include: if a party to the proceedings is bankrupt, if there are insufficient contact details to locate the respondent and if one party is in prison).

Although it is not one of the exemptions mentioned above, you would not need to attend a MIAM if you are asking the court to approve a consent order i.e. an order that formalises an agreement that you have reached.

It’s relatively early days in terms of assessing whether the tightening up of the requirement to attend a MIAM in April 2014 will eventually encourage more people to use mediation, rather than resorting to court proceedings. Although legal aid is still available for mediation for those who qualify financially, there has been a major problem. The main referrers to mediation were solicitors and since April 2013, when legal aid for legal advice was scrapped for most cases, people simply haven’t been seeing solicitors and aren’t, therefore, getting to know about mediation in the way they used to. The Government was warned this would happen and has only fairly recently woken up to this unintended consequence of the legal aid changes.

If proceedings have been issued the court must still consider, at every stage in the proceedings, whether non-court dispute resolution (such as mediation) is appropriate. The court can adjourn proceedings to allow these alternatives to be explored.

Mediation is a process to help resolve disputes about any issues faced by separating couples such as arrangements for the children and finances. A mediator will meet with the couple together, identify those issues which they can’t agree on and then help them to try to reach an agreement.

It is possible to go through mediation by yourselves without the involvement of lawyers. It is always recommended to have some independent legal advice before, during and after mediation and in some cases people find it helpful to have lawyers present as part of the mediation process to provide additional support.

If you are interested in finding out more about mediation, do get in touch with one of our mediators.

 

Jane Booth

Family Law Solicitor

Leeds


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