Mediation Information Assessment Meeting
If everyone agrees to try mediation then an appointment is made for your first mediation session.
If you decide not to continue into mediation or it’s not suitable in your circumstances then the mediator will sign a C100 form, to show you have considered mediation. This means you can take your case to court, if that’s what you decide to do next.
Before taking your case to court, the C100 form must be filled in and must contain:
- confirmation from a mediator that you have attended a MIAM;
- a claim from the person making the application that a MIAM exemption applies; or
- confirmation from a mediator that a mediator’s exemption applies.
A MIAM is a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting with a specially qualified family mediator, who will explain to you the alternatives to the court process. Most divorcing and separating couples in England and Wales who want to use the court process to resolve any questions about children or money have to show that they have attended a MIAM before they can apply for a court order. The purpose of the meeting is to give you an opportunity to find out whether going to court would be the best way of resolving the issues surrounding your relationship or marriage breakdown (e.g. children, property and financial issues), and in particular whether mediation could be an effective alternative.
At a MIAM you will meet with a qualified family mediator, and discuss your personal situation on a confidential basis. Usually, this is a one to one meeting, although sometimes you can attend part of the meeting with your former partner if you both want to do so. As things stand, only one of you is required to attend a MIAM to talk through the alternatives to court and decide whether another route could be appropriate for you, your family and your particular circumstances. However, the other person is expected to attend when invited to do so, and the court has the power to tell the person who has refused to attend a MIAM that they must do so.
The mediator will provide information about options available to you to resolve the issues around your separation and will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each option. The mediator will also ask questions, and make an assessment to decide whether or not mediation is a suitable way forward for you in your own particular circumstances
Currently, many people who are separating or divorcing go to court to argue over issues that they are better placed to sort out themselves – such as getting 30 minutes extra contact time with their children or varying their allocated contact days – or spend months on a court application over their finances with uncertainty as to outcome and potentially very substantial costs involved. Litigation is expensive and can be emotionally draining for all concerned. Families usually know more about their own personal circumstances than any else does and the government is keen to encourage people to make their own arrangements wherever possible, rather than go to court.
There are several alternatives to the court process – such as mediation – and the purpose of compulsory MIAMs is to enable separating couples to explore these and other options available to them.
Only specially qualified mediators are allowed to conduct MIAMs. A family mediator who is allowed to conduct MIAMs has the experience and the additional training to make sure that he or she can:
- help you to talk through all the different options
- provide information to enable you to make a decision about whether mediation is right for you
- assess whether or not you are going to be safe and comfortable in a mediation environment.
During or after the MIAM if, for any reason, either of you chooses not to try mediation (or one of the other alternatives to court), or if the mediator decides that mediation isn’t suitable for you, one of you can ask the court to get involved.
As things stand, only one of you is required to attend a MIAM to talk through mediation and the alternatives to court and decide whether another route could be appropriate for you, your family and your particular circumstances. However, the other person is expected to attend when invited to do so and the court has the power to tell the person who has refused to attend a MIAM that they must do so.
You cannot issue an application at court without attending a MIAM unless a specific exemption applies in your case. The court will check to see if any exemption claimed is valid. If the court decides the exemption is not valid, the court may require the applicant to attend a MIAM before it will deal with the application.
Members of the Family Mediators Association (FMA) have been working with the courts to set up duty rosters at courts which will enable clients to make a MIAM appointment with a qualified family mediator straight away, if necessary. Even if you are quite sure that mediation or one of the other alternatives to court is not for you, attending a MIAM will help you avoid unnecessary delays.
Only in certain very specific circumstances – such as where there is evidence of domestic violence or a risk of serious harm to children – can you ask the court to decide what should happen without first attending one of these meetings. If the financial arrangements are already agreed, with or without the help of mediation, the court can be asked to turn that agreement into a ‘consent order’, and if that happens there is no need to attend a MIAM first. The court application form sets out all the possible exemptions that can apply in different situations.
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