Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM)
Since April 2014, except in certain circumstances, everyone who wishes to make an application to Court to deal with the family finances or arrangements for children must attend a MIAM.
The purpose of the MIAM is to discuss the mediation process as well as the suitability of mediation in the given situation.
Once the case has been assessed as being suitable for mediation it is up to the parties to decide whether they would like to attempt mediation.
Occasionally, one or both parties decides not to proceed with mediation and wish to issue Court proceedings. At this stage, I will sign the MIAM section of the relevant form.
Although, a specialist family solicitor, in my capacity as a mediator I am bound to remain impartial, and as such cannot advise either party. However, I am able to provide lots of financial and legal information, as well as direction and will ensure that all relevant issues have been considered and addressed.
It is often advisable to have a solicitor on board. Each party will instruct their own solicitor. Having the benefit of legal advice, will ensure that each party feels confident during the mediation process and will allow for agreement to be reached much more quickly.
Legal fees escalate significantly once Solicitors become embroiled in protracted correspondence. Mediation aims to remove the need for inter party communication and limit the role of a solicitor to that of an advisory capacity only.
The mediation sessions
If the mediation seeks to resolve the division of the family finances, full financial disclosure will need to be provided by each party. As a specialist and practising family solicitor, I tailor the disclosure process to every given situation and guide clients through the process to ensure that it is manageable and does not become overwhelming.
Once financial disclosure has taken place, I will produce a detailed schedule of assets. It is then sensible for each party to consult a solicitor to discuss their respective options. All options, ideas and proposals are then explored and refined in the mediation.
The above method has proven extremely successful. By involving a solicitor, prior to negotiation, ensures that each party is confident that their respective best interests are being met and with the proposals put forward. This often means the mediation results in success and inevitably shortens the process and reduces costs, even further.
Arrangements for Children
Mediations often involve reaching agreement concerning where a child/children will live or how much time will be spent with each parent. The flexibility of the mediation process means that this agreement can be reached quickly, or over time, depending on the given situation. Often parents choose to have a gap of a couple of weeks or even longer between mediation sessions to ensure that any arrangement works on a practical level. An interim agreement may be reached early on in the mediation and then tweaked during the course of the mediation, depending on issues that may arise or specific logistical or practical issues, which become apparent once the agreement is being implemented on a trial basis. Inevitably, this means that long term, workable agreements can be reached through mediation and often results in much happier family situations for both parents and children.
Upon reaching agreement
A detailed and comprehensive document called a Memorandum of Understanding will be produced, recording the agreement reached and the reasons behind the specifics of the agreement.
It is very important to note that any agreement reached in mediation is not binding.
A solicitor will convers the financial agreement into a consent order. This will become binding once it sealed by the Court.
The Courts do not usually seal agreements relating to arrangements for children but a solicitor can draft a children agreement, which will be considered by the Court should there be any future dispute.
The conversion of the mediation agreement by a solicitor is a simple process, which should not be costly.