The Family Mediation Process
Prior to beginning mediation, you will be invited to attend an initial assessment meeting, these are sometimes called MIAMS.
By April 2014 a new law will have been introduced, turning the current expectation to attend one of these meetings into a requirement to attend. Only in serious circumstances – such as allegations of domestic violence or concerns about serious harm to children – will it be possible to go straight to court without attending one of these meetings. The government’s aim in introducing MIAMS was to raise awareness of family mediation as a cost-effective and positive way of resolving family issues without involving the courts.
Purpose of a MIAM
Is to give you a chance to consider what options are available for resolving the issue, and whether Court proceedings are the best way for the family to deal with it. A MIAM is not compulsory mediation; instead it is a compulsory meeting to consider whether mediation or some other process would be the right way forward. There is a charge of £78.00 each for this meeting.
Whilst many couples attend a MIAM separately, there is no reason why a joint MIAM cannot take place.
If mediation is not appropriate or not needed for any reason, you will each be issued with a form FM1 which is needed if your case does end up going to Court. It is only a mediator and not a solicitor that can sign your FM1 form.
How long will a MIAM take?
A MIAM will usually last for one hour per person.
Who will be there?
Just the client(s) on his/her own, with a mediator.
What will be discussed?
The client will be given time to tell his/her story and explain what it is that needs to be resolved. The mediator will explain the different options available to deal with the issue and how they differ in terms of time, cost and stress. It will be decided at this meeting if you require an all issues mediation which includes disputes in relation to property and your finances.
If mediation is a suitable option, the mediator will explain what mediation is and how it works. The mediator will also assess whether the client will be eligible for free mediation paid for by the government.
What happens after the MIAM?
After your initial assessment meeting if you have agreed to mediation then a Joint Meeting will follow:
The joint meeting of all the parties will start with the explanation of the golden rules of mediation which are:
- It is confidential – whatever happens at the mediation meetings the parties agree (in the mediation agreement) to keep it confidential.
- Any discussions you have with the mediator in your private room are confidential – information will not be passed on to the other side without your permission.
- It is without prejudice – which in plain English means nothing that is said at the mediation can be referred to in any court case if the mediation does not result in settlement.
- It is voluntary – any party can leave at any time for any reason.
- A mediator is not a judge – their role is to help you and your opponent find a solution you can all live with. However, there may be times in the private meetings when you will be asked challenging questions about your case – this is simply part of the process.
- There is no binding agreement until it is written and signed by all the parties.
The clients are invited and encouraged to make an optional opening statement. This is your opportunity to explain your view of the case to your opponent. You can do it yourself, or you can both do it. You might want to tell your opponent some or all of the following:
- what you want to achieve at the mediation;
- how you feel about the dispute and how it has affected you;
- why you think the parties are in dispute;
- why it is in their interests to resolve the dispute;
- how you think the dispute could be resolved (bear in mind the other side have to agree to any settlement).
Each side has the opportunity to respond. Parties can ask questions if there is anything they do not understand about their opponent’s case although neither side is obliged to answer any questions. The mediator will also ask some questions to identify exactly what the issues are.
Further joint meetings
It is very common for the mediator to ask the parties to meet together again during the course of the mediation, particularly if financial and property issues need to be discussed. There will be a gap between these meetings to give you enough time to collate the necessary documentation. A full list will be given to you by your mediator and an explanation of why and what we need.
Signing the agreement
If an agreement is reached it is written and signed by both parties and is called a Memorandum of Understanding. This can then be taken to your solicitor if required and converted into Consent Order, if you wish it to be ratified by a Court.
You then have a binding agreement, the mediator can congratulate you on resolving your dispute and you can go home to get on with your life.