Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings - MIAMs

What is a MIAM?
It’s short for Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. These meetings are also sometimes referred to as pre-court meetings.

The law requires anyone (with a few exceptions) wishing to make an application to the family court for a child, financial or property order to have a MIAM first. They will not be allowed to lodge their papers at court if they haven’t had one.

The point of the MIAM is to explore whether mediation might be a more suitable way of dealing with the problem or dispute than court.

Can I go to a solicitor for a MIAM?
No. Only mediators who are accredited by the Family Mediation Council are authorised to conduct them..
Why were MIAMs introduced?
The answer is complex. But essentially, the courts are not designed to resolve personal problems and disputes. Nor are they the best place to do so in most cases. Few cases that go to court involve legal arguments. They mainly  revolve around emotional conflict and financial fear as a result of a communication breakdown between the parties.

Courts cannot address the underlying conflicts that drive people so often to the family courts. Mediation can.

What happens at a MIAM?
The mediator listens and explores whether mediation may be a more suitable than going to court.

If you are not willing to mediate, you do not have to.  You can ask the mediator for a certificate showing that you have attended a MIAM. The certificate will allow you to make a court application

On the other hand, if you would like to try mediation, you can ask the mediator  to make contact with your ex inviting them to a similar meeting. If your ex attends a MIAM also, and wants to mediate, the mediator will make arrangements with you both to start the process.

If your ex is unwilling to meet for a MIAM, or attends a MIAM but is unwilling to mediate, you can ask the mediator for a certificate showing that you have attended a MIAM.

Are MIAMs confidential?
Yes they are. Whatever you tell a mediator will be confidential between you and them. There is one exception: if you tell the mediator something that leads them to believe someone is at risk of harm, they may have a duty to report the information to the appropriate state agency.
Can I have a MIAM over the phone or online through Skype video?
The FMC (Family Mediation Council) writes the standards which family mediators must follow.

FMC standards DO NOT allow MIAMs to be held over the phone.

FMC standards DO allow MIAMs to be held over online video, such as Skype.

However, legal aid is NOT available at present for online MIAMs.

Will mediators disclose their reasons if they assess mediation as unsuitable at a MIAM?
No. MIAMs are confidential. For example, you might have a MIAM first and tell the mediator you are keen to try mediation. The mediator then meets with your ex. Your ex might not want to try mediation, or the mediator may assess the case as unsuitable given what they have heard from both of you. In such a case, the mediator cannot tell you, or anyone else – even a solicitor or the courts – why they decided not to offer to mediate.
What if I know my ex is unwilling to attend their own MIAM or is not willing to mediate? Do I still need to have one?
Yes, you do. Quite often people tell their ex in the heat of the moment that they are not willing to mediate. Yet when they are approached by an independent mediator, they recognise the benefits of mediating over fighting things out in court.
What's the point of attending a MIAM if I know I don't want to mediate?
Many people think mediation is not going to work in their case. They may think their ex is too difficult, or they may simply be miles apart in what they both want.

Few understand how mediation really works. Courts are expensive for the state to run. People who use them in family related matters are often severely affected by the way the process pits them against each other. Children are likely to be significantly affected by parents fighting things out in court involved

Because mediation tends to lead to quicker, less costly and longer lasting outcomes, the state is keen to encourage mediation where it is suitable. That’s why everyone must attend a MIAM.

Who is exempt from having a MIAM?
These are the current exemptions. If you believe one of them applies to you, you should ask a lawyer to advise you on your situation.

  • You, or the other party, has made an allegation of domestic violence against the other supported by clear evidence, for example either a police investigation or an injunction being issued within the last 12 months. It is not enough simply to claim that there has been abuse or violence.
  • The application you want to make to the court relates to other family law matters which you are currently involved in.
  • An application to the court needs to be made urgently because there is a risk to the life or safety of the person who is making the application (the applicant) or their family (for example, their children) or their home.
  • The dispute is about money and you or your husband, wife or civil partner (the respondent) is bankrupt.
  • You and your husband, wife or civil partner are in agreement and there is no dispute.
  • You do not know where your husband, wife or civil partner is.
  • You wish to make an application to the court but for certain reasons you don’t want to tell your husband, wife or civil partner in advance. You should check these reasons with a lawyer. Simply wanting to cause surprise, for example, will not be acceptable.
  • You are currently involved with social services because there are concerns about the safety and wellbeing of your child or children.
  • You can’t find a mediator within 15 miles of where you live, or you have contacted three mediators based within 15 miles of where you live and you are unable to get an appointment with any of them within 15 working days.
  • You or your partner cannot access a mediator’s office because one of you has a disability. However, if the authorised mediator can provide the appropriate facilities then you will both still be required to attend the meeting.
  • A mediator shows on the court form that mediation isn’t suitable, for example the other person has made it clear in advance that they are not willing to attend a MIAM.
  • In the past four months you’ve tried mediation but it hasn’t been successful. A mediator has to confirm this and state that mediation is not the best way for you to resolve your dispute.
  • You or your partner do not normally live in either England or Wales and therefore cannot be considered as habitually resident.
How much does a MIAM cost?
Mediation services can set their own rates. Some may charge by the hour, others may offer a fixed price.

We price our MIAM service at £120. Our charges are not subject to VAT. This is what is included.

  • A 15 minute confidential chat on the phone to one of our accredited mediators.
  • Sending you an email (or letter) with a link to an online information form to complete.
  • When we have received your completed form, we get in touch to arrange your appointment.
  • We will send you written confirmation of your appointment time and date.
  • Sending you a text message appointment reminder at least 24 hours in advance.
  • Preparing for your appointment by reading your completed information form.
  • Meeting you for a 60 minute confidential meeting.
  • If you want us to, we will write to your ex by post inviting them to attend their own MIAM with us.
  • If your ex does not get in touch, phoning them to check that they received our message.
  • If your ex makes a MIAM appointment, we will let you know and will contact you both afterwards to confirm whether or not we have assessed your case as suitable.
  • If your ex does not wish to make an appointment for a MIAM or if we assess your case as unsuitable for mediation, we will let you know.
  • If mediation is not going ahead, we will send you a mediator’s certificate. This confirms that you attended a MIAM. This will enable you to make a court application within the following four month period. If your ex attended a MIAM too, we will send them a certificate as well.
  • If, despite sending out certificates, you and your ex subsequently decide that you wish to mediate, we will probably be able to help providing we didn’t assess mediation as potentially unsafe.
Is legal aid available for MIAMs?
Yes. If you approach a mediator with a legal aid contract and you qualify for legal aid, then you will not have to pay for your MIAM. Nor will your ex if they go for a MIAM with the same mediator. To see if you might qualify for legal aid, click here

If you do not qualify for legal aid,most mediators will charge for a MIAM.

Do I need a MIAM before I lodge my divorce or civil partnership dissolution paperwork at court?
No, you don’t. Divorce is one of the exempt processes.

However, as experienced mediators we recommend that those wanting to end a relationship get the help of a mediator if they are not in complete agreement with  their partner about what steps to take. Mediators help people understand their legal options and can prevent a simple difference of opinion from turning into a major disagreement.

Why can't solicitors conduct MIAMs?
Solicitors are not mediators and so cannot talk with authority about how mediation works.

Also, the state would prefer more people to use mediation to resolve their disputes. Research shows that mediation outcomes are longer lasting, are reached more quickly and are much less expensive than involving lawyers.

Most law firms rely on a business model which means that it will earn far more income from each client if the dispute goes to court than it would if it was resolved with the help of mediation. This may lead the government to believe that if solicitors were authorised to conduct MIAMs, the goal of fewer people using the courts could not met.

Will having a MIAM hold up my court application?
If you need to apply to the family court as an emergency, then you may not need a MIAM – see our FAQ above about the exemptions.

If your situation is not exempt, you should be able to arrange a MIAM at fairly short notice. You may need to be flexible with your availability. We can usually see people within 24 hours if needed.

Can my partner and I have a MIAM together?
In theory, yes you can. In practice, they can be more difficult to diarise.

They will also take longer than an ordinary MIAM. We like to plan f0r 90 to 120 minutes.

We start by seeing both people together for 5 to 10  minutes. Then we see each of them separately for up to 30 to 45 minutes each. Finally, we see them together for a further 15 to 20 minutes.

We charge each person £90 for a joint MIAM. See the FAQ above about the cost of a MIAM for more details of what is included in the price.

Is a MIAM the same as mediation?
No. The law can require people to attend a MIAM, but the law cannot make people mediate.

MIAMs are a preliminary step before mediation can take place. mediation only starts when the parties have signed an Agreement to Mediate.

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