This week the National Family Mediation (NFM) charity published figures showing that in 2016 over 60 percent of couples ignored the requirement for separating partners to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before applying to the Court to settle family disputes.
As mediators as well as solicitors, we will always encourage our clients to engage in the mediation process to resolve their disputes rather than simply issuing court proceedings.
The benefits of mediation are far-reaching. Not only is it quicker, more cost effective, and more flexible than court proceedings; it empowers clients to take control of their own lives and gives them the opportunity feel that they have been heard.
However, there are a number of situations where mediation is clearly not appropriate and Court is the only feasible course of action. In these situations the law relating to MIAMs does not always help the client. It may be that the rules relating to the circumstances where an exemption from mediation can be claimed needs to be relooked at to prevent what the NFM refer to as a ‘box – ticking exercise.’
This may have the positive effect of ensuring that it is really the cases that are suitable for mediation that are referred for a MIAM. This would result in these cases being able to follow the mediation route through to a successful conclusion. Whereas as the current law stands almost all cases are being referred for a MIAM where realistically a large proportion of these cases are clearly unsuitable and are never going to get beyond the initial assessment meeting. It may therefore be a case of review rather than enforcement.