A family break up can be a very stressful and upsetting experience. This is particularly true if there are children involved and /or the separation is not amicable. It is possible that attending mediation will help to resolve issues in an amicable fashion which may in turn help to reduce some of the stress and upset.

Although it is not compulsory to attend mediation it is now, with limited exceptions, expected that before a person applies to the Court to sort out finances, property and child arrangements he or she will first attend a MIAM with a view to seeing if mediation might be helpful. When applying to the Court a person will need to include in the paperwork confirmation of the position so far as a referral to mediation is concerned.

What is MIAM?

MIAM stands for Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings. These are designed to get parties talking to each other around a table without legal representation and with an experienced, qualified family law mediator to help them try to sort out their differences.

Agreement between the parties is a better way to resolve issues if at all possible and it makes sense to try to reach agreement and wherever possible to avoid contested Court proceedings. Mediation can play a significant part in helping separating couples to try to reach agreement on the various issues that can arise when a relationship breaks down. In particular when dealing with issues over children it is likely that the children themselves will benefit more from arrangements that their parents have manged to agree between them rather than arrangements imposed by a Court which may not be popular with one or indeed sometimes with both of their parents.

Why should I go to mediation?

Firstly, as referred to above, it is generally a requirement that a referral is made to mediation before a Court application is made. Secondly, if it succeeds it is a cheaper process than going to Court and enables the parties to keep better control of how the situation progresses rather than handing over control to a Court process. If family mediation succeeds this will provide a cheaper, quicker and less stressful means or resolving issues than if those issues had to be decided by the Court.

There are circumstances in which mediation would not be expected such as when there has been physical and /or mental abuse within a relationship or where the parties live so far apart from each other that mediation is not feasible. In addition there are some cases which are eligible for mediation where mediation simply does not work. In cases where mediation is not appropriate or is unsuccessful then if subsequently a person has to apply to the Court to sort the issues out the paperwork submitted to the Court will confirm either that mediation has been attempted and has failed or that the case is not one in which mediation is appropriate.

Where a couple are able to reach agreement on these various issues between themselves then they do not need to attend mediation. However, for those who are finding it difficult to reach agreement on any of the issues that arise then in many cases mediation is a sensible early step to take to explore whether with the assistance of a mediator agreement can be reached. Although lawyers do not attend the mediation appointments there is nothing to prevent individuals from having access to their own legal advice between mediation appointments to discuss what has happened and to take advice on anything that has been proposed.

The mediator cannot force either party to do something with which they are not happy and either party can withdraw from the process at any time if they feel that it is not working for them and all other options, such as solicitor negotiations and Court applications, are still available if needed so no options are lost by attempting mediation at an early stage.

The Thompson Smith and Puxon Family and Divorce team advise clients on all aspects of private family law and are able to offer a free initial chat for prospective clients. If you would like to make an appointment or have any questions arising from the matters raised in this article, or any other family law matter, please contact the team on 01206 5744431 or by email at info@tsplegal.com.