What is a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM)?
A mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM) is a meeting with a specially qualified family mediator and the aim of this meeting is to…
- Explain to you the alternatives to the Court process available to separating/divorcing couples. These alternatives include mediation, which is a voluntary process, involving a qualified and impartial mediator who provides neutral information and options to empower clients to make their own decisions
- Give you an opportunity to decide whether going to Court would be the best way of resolving the issues around your separation/divorce
- Explain the availability of mediation and whether it is a suitable alternative
Every client who expresses an interest in mediation begins with an intake session to assess suitability. Since 22 April 2014 divorcing/separating couples who want to use the court process to resolve disagreements about money and/or children must show that they have attended a MIAM first.
An application to Court cannot be issued with a MIAM certificate or claiming one of the specific exemptions explained in the form. If there has been a referral for a MIAM, the mediator has to sign the court application form. The Court will check whether any other exemption is validly claimed and will usually require that you attend a MIAM if no exemption, in fact, applies. A Judge may also choose not to hear a case until a couple have shown that they have considered mediation. The Child Arrangements Programme which sets out the protocol for private law children act applications requires that the court considers the use of dispute resolution at each stage. The effect of this is that, even if you are quire sure that mediation or other of the other alternatives to Court is not for you, attending a MIAM will help you avoid unnecessary delays whether you are the person making the application or the other party.
The MIAM will give you the opportunity of hearing about different types of dispute resolution from an impartial and independent mediator being apart from mediation, collaborative law, family arbitration and negotiations between solicitors. All such dispute resolution processes are voluntary.
You should advise your solicitor, if you have one, that you are attending an initial meeting. If you decide to progress to mediation, you should inform your solicitors of the appointment of a mediator and the date of the first mediation session. It is very helpful for you to obtain legal advice during the mediation and your mediator will actively encourage you to obtain independent legal advice during the process.
Your meeting will be conducted by a mediator authorised by the Family Mediation Council to conduct MIAMs and to sign the relevant court application form confirming that a MIAM has taken place (the form). If at the end of the meeting (to include any meeting with your former partner) either you or the mediator decides that mediation is not appropriate you can ask the mediator to sign the form.
It is usual for these meetings to be conducted separately but can, if you decide, be conducted with both of you present. Even if you both have a joint assessment meeting there will be a separate private session with (each of) you. This will involve you and the mediator discussing your personal situation on a confidential basis without your former partner in the room. Any information you give the mediator during this/in a separate meeting will be kept confidential and will not be shared with your former partner except as expressly agreed by you. There are however some exceptions to the mediator’s duty of confidentiality and these are listed below.
During the meeting the mediator will provide information about the options available to you to resolve the issues around your divorce/separation, through dispute resolution, and will discuss with you the pros and cons of each option. The mediator will also ask you questions to make an assessment as to suitability for mediation. The mediator may decide that mediation is not suitable, even if you (and your partner) wish to proceed. You both have to accept the mediator’s decision as manager of the process. If this happens, the mediator will sign the form to confirm that you have attended a MIAM but that mediation is not going ahead.
The mediator may decide that mediator would be suitable. If this happens it is for you, and your partner, to choose whether or not to try the mediation process. Mediator is voluntary. You are required to attend a MIAM before issuing a court application but you are not required to mediate. If you decide that you do not wish to consider mediation then the mediator will complete the form to confirm that you have attended but that mediation is not going ahead.
Exceptions to confidentiality…
- Where any person, particularly a child, is at risk of harm the family mediator has a duty to contact the relevant authorities
- In common with solicitors, the family mediator may be required to disclose to an appropriate Government authority information with regard to the commission of any relevant, previously undisclosed, criminal offence. Such disclosure may take place without informing you and the mediator may have to disclose any meeting without further notice.
- The family mediation is a “processor” of personal data under the Data Protection Act 1998. You consent to us processing your personal data and you understand that this includes our retaining and storing your personal data for as long as is necessary.
- Our quality assurance/contract with the Legal Aid Agency requires that we monitor our mediation files. Please note that the Legal Aid Agency will have access to your file during any audit.
- If you make a compliant your file will be read by any complaints handler to enable him/her to consider the complaint properly.
Fees are charged separately for each client. If you are not eligible for legal aid the MIAM will be charged at £80.00 plus VAT at 20%. If you are eligible for legal aid the MIAM and the signing of the form will be free to you.
Complaints – we have a complaints procedure in writing – please ask us for a copy. You should first of all raise any concern/complaint with your mediator. If it cannot be resolved at this level then your complaint will be sent a Complaints Professional Practice Consultant (CPPC) who will be given the mediation file (see above). The CPPC will investigate and attempt to resolve the complaint within 28 days . The CPPC will make a finding and his/her recommendation will be sent to you. If you are still unhappy/concerned you need to submit a written complain to the Family Mediators Association (FMA). They will deal with the complaint by reference to the Family Mediation Council Code of Practice.
Sarah Mellish and Jane Wells are both mediators trained with Resolution who as Accredited Mediators are able to offer MIAMs and complete the form.