Mediation Information Assessment Meeting
What is a MIAM?
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.
What happens after the MIAM?
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 or a FormA, 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 or FormA 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.
Why are MIAMs Compulsory
The Ministry of Justice recognises that there are several alternatives to the court process, such as mediation, and the purpose of compulsory MIAMs is to enable separating couples to explore mediation and other options available to them.
Currently, many people separating or divorcing go to court to argue over issues that they are better placed to sort out themselves – such as changing schedules with their children or varying their allocated contact days. People also spend months on court applications over their finances with real uncertainty as to how it will turn out – whilst also suffering from the very substantial costs involved. Litigation is expensive but just as importantly it can be emotionally draining for all concerned. People usually know more about their own personal circumstances than any else does and the MoJ is keen to encourage people to make their own arrangements wherever possible.
Who can conduct a MIAM?
Only specially qualified ‘Family Mediation Council’ 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.
After the MIAM, what if it’s not right for you?
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.
What if my former partner won’t attend a MIAM?
As things stand, only one of you is required to attend a MIAM as typically only one of you is likely to commence court proceedings. However, the other person is still 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.
What happens if I don’t attend a MIAM?
If you’re thinking about taking your case to court then you cannot issue an application (C100 or FormA) without attending a MIAM first (unless you have a specific exemption which the court will check).
If you’ve been invited to a MIAM and decide not to attend then this will be noted on C100 or FormA submitted to the court. It is becoming more and more likely that a judge or magistrate will instruct you to attend a MIAM and consider mediation. In some circumstances, not following the expected procedure, and not considering the alternatives to court, can diminish your case. Don’t forget that a MIAM is really trying to help you make an informed decision and is not forcing you to make any decisions you don’t want to.
Are there any exemptions to a MIAM?
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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