Mediation is a process whereby a neutral service invites the parties involved in a dispute over property or children to attend meetings with each other, with the support of the mediator. The aim is to resolve the dispute without going to court. There are a number of benefits of mediation such as saving time and money. However, the mediation process is not right for everyone.
One of the first steps in the process is to have a MIAM, which is an Information and Assessment Meeting. This is a legal requirement and needs to be done before you can make any court application. MIAMs are usually free of charge, although some organisations may charge for this meeting (although legal aid is available).
The purpose of the MIAM is to find out more about mediation and to see if it is suitable for your case. It is a chance for the mediator to ask you for some background details of your relationship and your current situation before deciding whether mediation could work. The mediator will also tell you if there are any exemptions to the requirement to attend a MIAM before making a court application.
Most people will have separate MIAMs with the mediator but it is possible for the applicant and the prospective respondent to attend a joint MIAM. If this is the case the mediator will ensure that both individuals spend some time alone with each of them to assess whether mediation is appropriate for their case.
It is possible to make an application to the court without having attended a MIAM if there are specific circumstances such as domestic abuse or a child being at risk. The applicant must claim an exemption on their court application form and provide the mediator with supporting evidence before they can proceed to the hearing.
At the end of your MIAM you will be asked if you would like to go on to mediate and if you decide not to, that is fine. It is important to understand why you do not want to mediate though so that if you end up in front of a judge they will know that you have thought about it and made an informed decision.
If you do decide to mediate, your next step will be a mediation session which is normally held over several sessions with the other party. These can be in the same room or in different rooms. If you feel that there is a level of trust or that you can discuss issues openly in mediation then it is worth trying it. If communication is still very difficult then this will not be possible but you should raise this with the mediator in your MIAM so that they are aware of this issue. They can then suggest some options such as shuttle mediation. miam mediation