Since April 2014 it has been necessary for people considering the issue of court proceedings, in most family cases, to attend an initial meeting with a mediator, known as a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting or MIAM. A certificate of attendance at a MIAM must be presented to the court staff before they will issue an application to the court. But what happens at a MIAM?
Most mediators see the couple separately for the MIAM, so don’t go along expecting your spouse/partner to be there. The mediator will provide the client with a lot of information regarding the principles of mediation and the procedure, so that the client can make an informed decision as to whether they would like to give mediation a try. It is a fundamental principle of mediation that it is voluntary, so clients have a completely free choice as to whether mediation is for them.
The MIAM is also an opportunity for the mediator to gather relevant information from the client to make an assessment as to whether the case is suitable for mediation. The mediator will ask questions about whether there are any domestic violence or child protection issues. The mediator will also need to consider whether the parties are emotionally ready for mediation, and whether there are any power imbalances that need to be addressed.
The mediator will wish to know what the couple hope to achieve via mediation and what they think the challenges will be.
Family Mediation can often be a quicker, cheaper and more appropriate way of resolving family law issues than the traditional court process, but it is not for everyone. It is not an easy option and will only work if both parties are committed to the process.
It is important that a mediator should have an opportunity to meet with the couple separately so that people feel free to speak openly about sensitive issues such as worries about violence or intimidation.
People often come to the MIAM certain that mediation will not work, but once I have told them more about it, they realise the potential benefits and are willing to give it a try. Conversely, some people come along to the MIAM adamant that they wish to mediate because they have heard that it may be quicker and cheaper, when mediation is clearly not appropriate.