What is a MIAM in Family Mediation
If you are going through a divorce or separation and you have issues that need to be resolved on your parenting arrangements, financial agreement or property matters you will probably find yourself needing to attend a MIAM (Mediation information and assessment meeting.
In this ‘Ultimate Guide to Attending a MIAM’ we give you all the information you need to prepare for your MIAM and understand when you need to attend one and when you might be exempt.
Why do I need to attend a MIAM?
In April 2011, the Ministry of Justice made it an expectation that you will have attended a MIAM, before you can submit an application to the court for a parenting or financial order on a family matter.
This requirement was routinely ignored by applicants so in April 2014, under section 10(1) of the Children and Families Act 2014, the Ministry of Justice made it compulsory to attend a MIAM in order to submit an application to the court on a family matter related to parenting, finances or property.
So the primary reason for attending a MIAM is because it is compulsory in most cases.
But why is that? The courts were becoming inundated with cases that could and in many cases, should, have been decided outside of court.
It was understood by many family law specialists that the court is not always the best place to resolve disputes – especially where there will implications for the wider family and ongoing relationship of the parties in dispute. The court understood that parents would need to work together, possibly over many years and returning to court every time they wished to change a midweek pick-up arrangement or go on a holiday abroad, was not a great way to live your lives moving forwards.
The legal requirement is simply to consider mediation through a MIAM – it is not a requirement to engage in mediation.
Situations when I need to attend a MIAM
You will need to attend a MIAM if you are:
- Applying for a court order
- Applying for a parenting matter on a Form C100
- Applying for a financial order on a Form A
- Wanting to invite someone to mediation to resolve an issue
- Where you both agree you want to attend mediation to resolve an issue
- Plus, several other areas where you are issuing specific proceedings at court
You do not need to attend a MIAM if you are looking to enforce an existing court order or if you agree on the outcome and want to get a legally binding order by consent.
Is a MIAM like couple’s counselling?
No, they are very much different things. A MIAM will explain the mediation process and allow you to consider whether you wish to go to mediation. Many people think a MIAM is to make sure you wish to end the relationship, which is incorrect.
Relationship counselling can help immensely with your decision to finish a marriage or relationship with your partner and it can also help with your ongoing relationship after your separation.
Family mediation will help with that ongoing relationship – as it will help you understand the other persons viewpoint and will lay out how you will communicate moving forward. But its primary purpose is to help you agree the parenting, financial and property issues of your separation, rather than looking back over the relationship and where it may have gone wrong.
Is it just a tick box exercise?
For a few cases, perhaps. Where you know the other party does not want to mediate or where you definitely don’t want to go to mediation yourself, for whatever reason, then if you don’t meet one of the 15 exemptions, you still have to attend a MIAM.
But, for many, understanding the advantages of mediation, with the process being explained and having a neutral service inviting the other party to mediation, may help keep you out of court and get you to an agreement quicker.
What if I don’t want to attend mediation
If you don’t want to attend mediation you simply need to explain to the mediator at the end of the MIAM why you don’t want to go and they will release the MIAM certificate to allow you to file at court. The decision is yours. You do not have to convince the mediator either way. Although you may need to let the judge know why you did not want to attempt mediation when you get to court.
Why can’t we just go straight into a joint mediation appointment?
The Family Mediation Council require anyone attending mediation to have an initial assessment meeting with the mediator. This is because it allows the mediator to speak with you individually to understand the situation from your viewpoint. It allows them to screen for domestic abuse and check that you are undertaking the mediation process willingly and not being coerced into it.
It also allows them to put a plan together for your joint mediation sessions – making it more likely you will reach an agreement in fewer sessions. Having a plan, such as organising break out rooms, putting in additional breaks or having an additional mediator present will make the mediation more conducive to your needs and, therefore, more likely that it will be successful.
Does it matter who attends the MIAM first?
No. if you both agree to mediation you can book in your appointments and they can even be held one immediately after the other. With some mediation services you can attend a joint MIAM appointment together. But in most cases, we see one of you first and, if mediation is suitable, we can then write to the other party to invite them to contact us.
You would normally see the same family mediator throughout your mediation and it will not make a difference which one of you they see first.
Why can’t you contact the other party before I have my MIAM?
We don’t get in touch with the other party until we have made sure that family mediation is suitable for your case. It may be that you tell us something in your MIAM which means that the mediator deems mediation unsuitable. We would not wish to invite someone to mediation only to subsequently tell them it cannot now proceed.
When we write to other party, we can also say that you have already attended a MIAM and that we can therefore release a form for court to you, if mediation does not proceed.
When do I not need to attend a MIAM?
There are 15 exemptions to attending a MIAM. Most of these revolve around urgency, where a child is at risk, or where domestic abuse has taken place. You can see the full list of exemptions here. The threshold for an urgent case is quite high as of course any situation involving a child is urgent for the parents. For any exemption, the court will want to see evidence or conduct further enquiries into the exemption before they proceed to the hearing.
If you are unsure if you qualify for an exemption, you can give us a call on 0330 999 0959 to discuss further. If we consider you have an exemption we will always tell you. For marginal cases, where you do not want to waste time having your MIAM exemption rejected by the court, you may want to consider a urgent MIAM.
What types of MIAM are there?
There are two types of MIAM that Mediate UK can help you with:
This is a MIAM where you want to apply to court whilst attempting mediation. We book you in within 2 working days and release your court form within 24 hours. We still write to the other party unless exceptional reasons apply. But it also allows you to make a court application whilst mediation is attempted.
These MIAMs can be held in person, but more commonly online and must be with an accredited family mediator. You can book an urgent MIAM by calling us on 0330 999 0959.
Case Study of a Urgent MIAM
The client had not seen their children for six weeks following an argument between him and his ex partner. The client preferred to mediate to resolve the matter quickly, but was not sure the other party would respond. They did not want to delay making a court application as his solicitor had told him it would take several months to get a hearing.
The client booked an urgent MIAM and was able to be seen the following day. They received a signed C100 court form within a few hours of the MIAM taking place and he was able to submit a court application. In this case, the other party did respond to our invitation to mediation and they were able to resolve matters. The court hearing was subsequently cancelled.
This is a one-hour appointment with your mediator. These sessions are held with a view to inviting the other party to mediation and resolving the issues outside of court. Following a standard MIAM Mediate UK will send a letter and/or email to the other party inviting them to contact us. If they don’t reply, we can send another letter after 2 weeks.
A standard MIAM will show the court that you have attempted mediation and gives you the best chance for mediation to take place.
What should I prepare for my MIAM?
Whether your MIAM is held face to face or online, you may have some questions that you want to ask your mediator. It can be helpful to write these down before your meeting. It can help to take some time to think about what you want out of the mediation.
Other than that, you do not have to prepare anything and your mediator will guide you through the process and address any concerns you may have.
Can I bring someone with me to my MIAM?
Yes. You can bring someone in support and it can be helpful for the process, as you have an extra set of ears, someone to take notes or just help you remember what was discussed. If you do wish to bring someone with you, we just ask that you let us know in advance so we can prepare the meeting room accordingly.
There are some exceptions:
- You should not bring your children with you to the appointment.
- You should carefully consider whether it is suitable to bring any adult children with you.
- You cannot bring your solicitor with you to the MIAM
- Unless you have specifically booked a joint MIAM (not available with Mediate UK) – you should not bring the party you are in dispute with you.
If you are struggling to attend a MIAM because you have a small child under two, then get in touch with us and we will do the best we can to help accommodate your situation.
Do you tell the other party if I bring someone with me?
No. We do not disclose what we discussed at your MIAM with the other party or give details of who you bought with you. Your MIAM is confidential.
Do I need to bring any ID?
No. You do not need to bring ID to you MIAM. Mediate UK ask you for ID once mediation progresses to joint mediation so you can easily move on to a legal package once agreement is reached.
What happens in the MIAM appointment?
You will be greeted by your family mediator and they will guide you through the process. For any MIAM with Mediate UK the mediator will explain certain pieces of information and share knowledge with you – this is the mediation information part of your MIAM, In addition, the mediator will ask you to explain your circumstances and what it is that you want to achieve.
Your mediator will explain:
- That we are regulated by the Family Mediation Council (FMC) and the process we follow is set down in their guidelines.
- There are 5 membership organisations of the FMC and will let you know which one they are a member of.
- They will go through the 5 principles of mediation. That it is voluntary, impartial, confidential, the clients make all decisions and that we follow the child inclusive guidelines
- That all mediation is without prejudice – so you are free to discuss proposals and not be tied to them if mediation breaks down.
- They will also explain the five mainstream dispute resolution processes you can use to resolve family disputes: family mediation, lawyer to lawyer negotiation, collaborative law, arbitration or family court
The mediator will need to ask you for:
- Details of your name, address and contact details.
- Details of the other party in the dispute
- Details of any children you have
- What you want to discuss – finance, parenting and or property
- A background to the relationship, when you married or started your relationship etc.
- Whether you are working or not
- Your wishes and feelings – what you hope to achieve through mediation
- Safeguarding – whether you have been a victim of domestic abuse or if the police have been called out to an argument.
- Whether you are seeking a divorce or legal agreement at the end of the mediation
- Whether you have a solicitor and the importance of getting specific legal advice
- Parenting – what is the current situation and what if anything would you like to change
- Financial Overview – an idea of the finances in dispute and explain how you can deal with the financial disclosure options on divorce
- Hopes & Wishes – what you want in the future and what you feel would be a good outcome from the mediation
- Next steps – what we can do next to move on. Whether you want to attempt mediation and if you would like us to invite the other party.
The mediator may feel it helpful to signpost you to various services or organisations. Mediate UK have teamed up with a select group of service providers, who we know and trust to help you. These include:
- Financial advisors
- Counsellors and therapists
- Solicitors and legal advisors
- Child law charities
- Domestic violence organisation
- Citizens Advice
- Mortgage brokers
- Will writers
- Pensions experts
- Any other organisation that may be able to help with your situation
Child Inclusive Mediation
For a parenting matter, the mediator will explain what is involved with child inclusive mediation so you can consider and discuss this at your joint mediation.
Conclusion of the MIAM
The mediator will ask you if you would like to attempt mediation. They will also explain any actions that they will make and agree the next steps with you.
What are Mediate UK’s 5 principles of mediation in a MIAM?
Voluntary– You cannot be forced to attend mediation against your will. It is only compulsory to consider mediation, in most circumstances, before going to court. Even if a court case is adjourned to allow for mediation, you still do not have to attend. Although you will have to explain to the judge why you did not attend.
Impartial– All mediators must be impartial. They are not making any decision on your behalf and are there to purely help you reach an agreement that you can both move forwards with. If the mediator feels there is anything that may impact their impartiality – for example if they know one of the parties, or have any link to them -then they must let both parties know and consider whether mediation with them is suitable. Your mediator is there to help you both reach an agreement and will not take sides. They will not tell you what to do but can share legal knowledge and explore options from their experience.
Confidential– Anything discussed in mediation is confidential to the mediation. There are some exceptions to this – if you are committing a criminal offence, money laundering or if a child or adult is at risk of serious harm, then the mediator is professionally obligated to raise the matter with the relevant authority. The court will never be told why mediation broke down or who was to blame for it not succeeding.
Decision making– This is your mediation. Mediate UK will use a tried and tested method of family mediation and use our experience to guide you through the process. But what is discussed and the outcomes are decided by you, the clients. You must accept that you are in control and are not handing responsibility over to a third party to decide your futures. Once you reach agreement it can be made legally binding through one of our fixed fee legal packages.
Child Inclusive mediation (CIM)– we follow the guidelines laid down for CIM and these will be explained to you fully by your mediator:
- Protection of the child is paramount
- The child can have the opportunity to explain their wishes and feeling in a confidential and impartial environment on matters that will have an impact on their life.
- We help parents make their parenting plans taking into account the wishes, feelings and needs of the children
- CIM allows children an opportunity to express their feelings to someone other than their own parent.
- Both parents must agree to CIM for us to invite the child.
What happens after my MIAM appointment?
There are four possible outcomes from a MIAM appointment:
- The mediator may decide that mediation is not suitable for your case and will release the relevant court form(s) to show this.
- You may decide that mediation is not something you wish to do, having had it explained to you.
- You may decide that you would like to attempt mediation and we can write to the other party inviting them. (If they have not already booked in for their MIAM)
- You may decide that you want to have a think about matters or consult with your family before deciding on how best to proceed. You can let us know at a later date what you have decided.
How does a mediator decide if my case is not suitable for mediation?
According to the FMC Survey Report 97% of cases were deemed suitable for mediation by the family mediator following a MIAM. But in some cases mediation is deemed unsuitable – even if the person attending does wish to try. In such cases, the mediator is not required to give any reason for declaring mediation unsuitable.
If another mediator has deemed a case unsuitable, you should not keep trying with different mediators until you find one who will mediate for you. The reasons the original mediator decided your case was not suitable will still be valid, unless your circumstances have changed significantly.
We held an online MIAM with a client who refused to engage with the mediator during the MIAM and was clearly under the influence of drugs at 10am in the morning. The client asked the mediator to pause the MIAM whilst he smoked some more drugs. As the matter was on parenting, clearly the mediator could not deem this matter suitable for mediation. The mediator felt it was better handled by the court who have more powers to request drugs tests and look at the implications surrounding the safety of the children.
Can my solicitor decide that mediation is not suitable for my case?
No. Only you or a family mediator can make that decision. You can of course take advice from your solicitor in order to make the decision for yourself.
How much does a MIAM cost?
Your MIAM and the mediation is free if you are eligible for legal aid. If you are not eligible for legal aid, prices will vary nationally across different mediation services. According to the FMC, the average cost of mediation is £140 per hour – but some mediation services will charge as much as £280 for an urgent MIAM.
Do I have to pay for my MIAM?
If you are eligible for legal aid you do not have to pay for your MIAM. You need to find a family mediator who offers legal aid in your area. If the other party in your case is eligible for legal aid then even if you do not qualify, you do not have to pay for your MIAM or your first joint mediation appointment. You will have to pay for any further joint session after your initial one.
In some cases one party will pay for the full cost of the mediation or offer to pay for the initial MIAMs for both of you. Have a look at our blog here on Who Pays For Mediation for more information and examples on how this can work.
What is a FM1, C100, Form A, or Form A1?
The mediator does not complete the full court form for you, but they will sign off the relevant page to show a MIAM has been completed. You can use the details from this signed page to enter online, if you are making one of these applications using the courts online application process.
How quickly do I get my MIAM certificate?
You are entitled to ask for your court form as soon as your MIAM is completed.
For a standard MIAM we will write to the other party and allow two weeks to hear back. If we do not hear back from them, we send a final letter or email inviting them to get in touch. After a further week if we have not heard back, or if they contact us to say they do not wish to participate in mediation, we can release the relevant signed form for you. For the processing of the invite letters and form Mediate UK charge £65, but only if mediation does not succeed. In some instances, clients elect for a twin-track process. Here, they ask for the MIAM certificate immediately and begin processing the court application while we process the invite to the second party. This way, no time is lost while you are assessing if mediation can begin; but you do have the cost of making the court application.
If you order a Urgent MIAM you will receive the signed form within 24 hours and there is no additional fee for this.
How long is a mediation certificate valid for?
A signed C100 or Form A is only valid for 4-months from the date of the mediator’s signature. You therefore need to consider the timing of the MIAM if you are not intending on submitting an application to the court immediately.
If your form is dated more than 4 months ago, you will need to make a new MIAM appointment.
What if I go to court and the judge decides mediation is suitable?
The law allows for a judge to adjourn proceedings if they consider family mediation is suitable for your case. Times can vary but a typical adjournment is for 3-months whilst the parties attempt mediation. A judge can order this when they feel that mediation should have been attempted but wasn’t or where the couple keep returning to court and the judge believes an alternative method to court proceedings should be tried.
Even if your case is adjourned to attempt mediation, you are still not obligated to attend. As one of the four principles, it must always remain voluntary. You may wish to consider whether refusing to attempt mediation, when requested to do so by the judge, would negatively affect your position.
What do we write in the letter to the other party?
We send two letters to the other party. The letters simply let the other party know that you have been to see us and wish to discuss a parenting or financial matter (or both). We explain the costs of mediation and how it works. We also explain why mediation is the court’s and the Government’s preferred method of dispute resolution.
In the second letter we explain that as we have not heard back from them, and if we do not hear within 7 days, we can release the signed mediation certificate to court if they do not wish to mediate.
This process is used by Mediate UK as we find it has the best chance of setting up mediation on your case. Other family mediation services may adopt a different process, which you can ask them about at your MIAM.
I have injunctions / bail conditions can I still attend a MIAM?
You can definitely attend a MIAM. Having an injunction or bail conditions does not mean that you cannot hold family mediation. If this is the case, you should let your mediator know and also confirm in writing that you are happy for us to write to the other party inviting them to mediation.
You should also check with the police station and / or local court to ensure that reaching out to attempt family mediation is not a breach of your bail conditions or injunction.
Can I get notes of my MIAM appointment?
Not normally, no. As all mediation is confidential, any notes the mediator makes cannot be released. You would not be able to use them in any subsequent court hearing. Notes of your MIAM or of the mediation itself, can only be released by a court order.
What type of mediator can hold a MIAM?
Your mediator must be a trained family mediator and be listed on the FMC’s data base. Following FMC rules, all our Urgent MIAMs are held by accredited family mediators or PPCs – the most experienced of family mediators.
Where can I find a mediator near me?
You can search on the FMC website for a local family mediator. Alternatively Mediate UK can conduct your mediation online – and from anywhere in the world.
Can I do my MIAM online?
Yes absolutely. And some people find this easier as they can do the MIAM from the comfort of their own home or office. There is more on how to prepare and what to consider for an Online MIAM here. Bear in mind it is harder to build up a rapport when you are communicating via a video link thank in person.
This ultimate guide has been produced by Ali Carter Dip M.(B.inst) F.inst.Pa.
Ali is the Founder of Divorce Ltd, a Mediator, Divorce Negotiator and has been previously through a divorce himself. He has helped clients in over 2000 divorce or separations since 2010.