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Can I skip Family Mediation and go straight to Court?

View profile for Sam Miles
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The breakdown of a relationship will always be a difficult time for all concerned, especially when there are children involved.  It is understandable that there may be animosity following the divorce or separation, which can lead to conflict when making arrangements for your children or for the finances.  While you may wish to go straight to Court, in most cases you will need to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to determine whether Family Mediation could be an alternative to the Court process. Sam Miles, Family Partner and Mediator, explains here why you may need to consider Family Mediation, and the exemptions that may apply.

Family Mediation is entirely voluntary; however due to its successes in helping separating couples to find their own solutions to their issues, the requirement to attend a MIAM before a Court application could be issued was introduced in 2014. The thinking behind this was to ensure that people took the opportunity, if appropriate, to resolve their differences without enduring the cost and emotional stress of going to Court.

What are the exemptions to attending a MIAM?

Unless one of the following exemptions applies to your own personal situation, you will need to attend a MIAM:

  • There is a history of domestic violence in your relationship and a police investigation, injunction or non-molestation order has been issued.
  • The application you wish to make to the Court relates to other family law matters you are currently involved in.
  • There is a need for an urgent application due to safety risks for a member of your family, if there is a risk a child may be unlawfully removed from the UK or if social services are currently involved.
  • You are in agreement and there is no dispute.
  • You do not know where your former partner is.
  • The dispute is about money, and one of you has been declared bankrupt.
  • There isn’t a Mediator within 15 miles of where you live, or you contacted at least three Mediators and have been unable to get an appointment within 15 working days.
  • Your former partner refuses to attend a MIAM, or a Mediator deems Mediation to be unsuitable.
  • You have already tried Mediation within the previous 4 months and it wasn’t successful.

“If you are feeling apprehensive about attending a MIAM, rest assured there is really nothing to worry about,” explains Sam. “A MIAM is an individual meeting with the Mediator who will sit down with you to discuss how Mediation works, find out a bit more about you and the issues you need to resolve, and who will help you to decide if Mediation might be right for you. It is then entirely up to you and your former partner as to whether you continue or not.”

What is the role of the Family Mediator?

One of the reasons why Family Mediation has been so successful is that the Mediator remains completely impartial and is purely there to facilitate a conversation between you and your former partner.  You can either have your Mediation sessions in the same room as your former partner, or you can request to be in separate rooms, although this does make Mediation more challenging.  The Mediator will listen to both sides of the discussion, give both parties the opportunity to have their voice heard and their wishes understood, and will help you to discuss options and different ways to resolve the issues. 

Mediation is not binding, but if proposals are reached which the parties wish to be binding upon them, the Mediator will explain the process for how the parties can obtain a court order to reflect the terms of the mediated agreement.

“Having the chance to sit down with your former partner in a safe and controlled environment, to discuss the issues which are important to you, and then finding solutions together, is a much healthier alternative to the Court process which can be emotionally and financially destructive.” concludes Sam. “Whilst Mediation should not be seen as the easy option, it is certainly quicker and cheaper than the Court process. Family Mediation is not marriage counselling, but is a way to resolve your differences and allow both of you to move forward in your new life in a positive way.  On the occasion that Family Mediation is not suitable or successful, then Court proceedings may be necessary, but they should be seen as the last resort when trying to resolve child or financial arrangements following a separation.”

To find out more about how Sam can help you through Family Mediation, you can contact her or the team on 0800 91 92 30 or email mediation@warnergoodman.co.uk. Alternatively you may find the following resources useful:

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice. All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.