Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings
If you are considering family mediation to help resolve disputes around your separation or divorce, contact your family lawyer about arranging a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. Often abbreviated simply to MIAM, it is run by a trained mediator who will talk to you and your partner to determine whether mediation is the right approach for your circumstances.
The Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting Process
A MIAM can be held with one or both of the separating partners and will discuss:
- The options available to the couple
- How mediation works
- The benefits and pitfalls of mediation, and other alternatives to solving disputes
- What mediation will cost
- If either party is eligible for Legal Aid or free mediation sessions
Meetings last between thirty minutes and an hour and typically take place in a neutral location such as a mediator’s office.
After this assessment, you or the mediator may decide that mediation is not the best approach for your separation. If that happens, the mediator will give you a form stating they have held a MIAM with you. English family law states that couples need to have at least considered mediation before going to court, and this form is proof that you have done so.
You have several choices regarding how your mediation sessions will work. Not all trained mediators are lawyers, but some family lawyers are also trained in mediation. Even if your mediator is a lawyer, they will be an impartial third party and not acting for either you or for your firm of family law solicitors.
Mediation can be done face-to-face but if you feel uncomfortable with that, the mediator can move between you and your partner in different rooms. Mediation typically takes several sessions and is always conducted in a neutral location.
The Mediation Process
Mediation involves both joint and individual discussions. The mediator will facilitate a respectful environment where both parties can talk about the key issues of their separation, state their wishes, and understand the other person’s position with the goal of resolving disputes without having to go to court. Couples have time between sessions to speak to their family law solicitor about the impact proposed solutions may have for them and their children, with the mediator preventing either party from feeling pressured to agree to a solution they do not like.
Agreements made in mediation sessions are not legally binding, but your family solicitor can apply to the court for them to be made so if you wish.
Pros and Cons of Mediation
Mediation is faster (10.5 months on average, according to a National Audit Office Report) and less expensive than having to go to court to agree on terms of your divorce. It gives you control over the choices about what is best for you and your children. If you have to go to court, a judge will be the person who makes decisions about your future, and you may not be happy with the outcome.
Mediation is typically quick to access so you are not left waiting for months before your case is heard in court – you can resolve issues and move forward.
On the flipside, mediation will only work if both parties are committed to reaching mutually agreeable solutions. Unlike collaborative law and lawyer supported mediation, couples do not have immediate access to legal advice so mediation can take longer than both of these processes. Mediation is not normally considered viable in a separation where domestic violence is involved, or where one party suspects the other is concealing money or assets. Agreements made in mediation are not legally binding. Unlike Court Orders, they can be ignored or changed without legal repercussions.
The average cost of mediation is around £500 – nearly eight times less than the cost of a divorce that has gone to court. You may be entitled to free mediation or legal aid, so ask your family lawyer or the mediation firm before you commit.
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