All applicants who intend on making an application to the court in respect to family proceedings are required to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting, also known as a ‘MIAM’.
Mediation between parties will be encouraged throughout the course of proceedings even up until the date of a Final Hearing. In family proceedings, the parties are referred to as ‘applicant’ and ‘respondent’. Before the applicant issues the application in relation to a financial dispute or children matter, the applicant will have to confirm that they have attended a MIAM or the reasons for not attending a MIAM. There are circumstances where a MIAM would not be suitable, such as allegations of domestic abuse, and therefore an exemption would apply in that circumstance.
MIAMs are facilitated by qualified family mediators who are credited by the Family Mediation Council (FMC). A MIAM can be held with both parties present at the meeting or the parties can choose to have separate meetings.
During the MIAM, the role of the mediator will be to provide information about the mediation process and information with regards to other forms of non-court dispute resolution, assess the suitability of mediation to resolve the dispute and assess the suitability of mediation in circumstances where there has been, or there is a risk of domestic violence or harm to a child.
If parties decide not to proceed with mediation or mediation is deemed not suitable, then the mediator will sign the relevant court application confirming that attending mediation has been considered. Therefore the extent of the requirement is for parties to simply attend the MIAM and obtain information and advice regarding mediation.
The attendance of a MIAM is pertinent in the commencement of family proceedings for the reason that the court will take into account the conduct of each party during proceedings. The court expects parties to expeditiously deal with matters by settling disputes outside of court and it is also thought that the involvement of the court should be the last resort.
With regard to costs, there is a fee for the booking of a MIAM but if you are eligible for legal aid, the MIAM will be free of charge. In comparison with the legal fees to be incurred by parties where the matter is to be resolved by the courts, mediation is a more cost-effective way to settle disputes. If parties cannot settle outside of court, it is most likely those parties who have legal representation who will incur expensive fees of solicitors and/or barristers who represent them during proceedings. However, there are circumstances where there is such hostility and lack of amicably between parties that any attempts for mediating and settling outside of court has failed or is simply not feasible.
If you are considering mediation or are in the process of commencing family proceedings, the Resolution website www.resolution.org.uk, will assist you further with regards to the process.
Here at Barrett and Co Solicitors, we would be happy to advise you further on the mediation process. If you would like to reserve a fixed fee meeting to discuss further with Aadil Khan, Solicitor and Head of the Family Department, please do get in contact with us on 0118 958 9711 or Aadil.Khan@barrettandco.co.uk