Anita Shepherd – partner and head of Family Law – asks: Why do I need to attend a MIAM before, upon or after consulting a family lawyer?

Mediators are trained to help resolve disputes faced by separating couples, or specific issues such as arrangements for children. A mediator will meet with you and your partner together and will identify those issues you can’t agree on and will help you to try and reach agreement.

The MIAM (Mediation Information Assessment Meeting) is the meeting that takes place before the joint mediation session.  The process is simple: You meet with a family mediator who can assess yours and your former partner’s suitability for this service at which time you will be provided with full details of how the service works so that you can make an informed decision as to whether you feel you can engage in the process.
Mediators are trained to work out with you whether mediation is right for you and your family. They will discuss how many sessions you may need, how much they will cost, and explain whether you might get legal aid to pay for it. The mediator can also give you information about other services that provide help and support.

A mediation referral has the added benefit of avoiding a solicitor/ legal letter being sent to you or the other party at a time when things are likely to be very raw and uncertain.  You may feel that your former partner being approached by a neutral third party assists in taking the heat out of the situation so that you both can begin the process of communicating to work out the best arrangements for everyone.

Do I have to go to a MIAM?

If you want to take your case to court, it is now – in most cases – a legal requirement to attend a MIAM. The other person involved is also expected to attend a MIAM, but they don’t have to go to the same meeting as you.  There are exceptions that mean you might not have to go to a MIAM. It can also be agreed at the MIAM that mediation isn’t right for you. There are a range of options available for resolving family disputes so, even if mediation isn’t right for you, going to court isn’t the only other option.

What happens after the MIIAM?

If everyone agrees to try mediation then an appointment is made for your first session. If you decide not to continue into mediation (or it’s not suitable in your circumstances) then the mediator will have to sign the relevant court form to show you have considered mediation. This means you can take your case to court.

The mediator will indicate during the sessions if either or both parties need to take legal advice and may request that you contact your family lawyer. At the end of mediation, it is possible that you will need to consult a family lawyer to advise on the arrangements agreed and to prepare any legal documents that may be required. Most family lawyers work in tandem with mediators so that the clients feel that they are being assisted by a seamless mediation and legal service.

There are huge benefits for family lawyers in their clients accessing the support and guidance of family mediation as you feel that you are better placed to focus on the legal aspects of the separation. Also, lawyers avoid spending energy and time on managing the emotional upset which can create enormous obstacles for legal decision making.

For more information, please contact Anita Shepherd on 0161 832 3304.

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