In the last few years there has been a whole raft of changes in family law practice and procedure, one of which is that it is now obligatory in almost all cases involving a family dispute, whether it be children or financial matters, to refer the parties for a MIAM (mediation information assessment meeting).  But what is mediation?

Mediation is not marriage guidance counselling or therapy.  Mediation takes place once a decision to separate has been made and is a tool to resolve disputes and hopefully reach an agreement.

A family mediator is a trained professional experienced in helping couples or families reach an agreement.  Sometimes they are lawyers who have also trained to become a mediator, sometimes they are other professional mediators.  Whether or not they are a lawyer, the mediator is not there to provide you with any legal advice or to take sides.

At the MIAM, you will meet by yourself with a mediator who will explain the process involved in mediation in more detail.  They will also contact your partner or spouse and have the same conversation with them. If mediation is suitable, further meetings will be arranged to work through the issues.  If financial matters are in dispute, you will usually be asked to exchange financial information with a view to trying to find a solution.

Hopefully through mediation you are able to reach agreement.  If so, the mediator will prepare a summary of the proposals and will encourage you each to discuss these with your lawyers.  Once you have received your own legal advice and if you are still happy with the proposals, the agreement is usually embodied into a final order to be approved by the court.  Sometimes, it is necessary for a small amount of further negotiations to take place before reaching a final agreement.

It is not always appropriate for a referral to mediation to be made, such as in cases where you and your ex partner or spouse live too far away from each other, or there has been a history of domestic violence.

There is a cost to mediation, but this is usually much less than engaging in contested proceedings.  In some cases, it is possible to obtain some help with the costs of mediation.  Your lawyer should be able to advise you about this.

At E J Coombs, we work closely with a number of mediators to resolve family disputes.  We are pleased to have Woodlands Mediation operating from both our Danbury and Billericay offices.