The Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) is the first meeting you will have with a mediator. It will usually just be between you and the mediator and will last around 45 minutes. If you want to, you can bring a friend or family member for support. The other person will be invited to attend a separate MIAM.
If you want to make an application to the court in a family case, in most circumstances (unless, for example your situation involves domestic violence or abuse), you are required to attend a MIAM, to consider whether mediation can help you, before you can issue your application. If you just want to explore whether mediation is right for you, attending a MIAM is a really good place to start.
At the MIAM, the mediator will:-
- Hear from you about your circumstances;
- Discuss what options are available to you;
- Explain mediation (what it is and how the process works) and other ways to resolve family disputes without going to court.
You will be given an opportunity to ask any questions you have and the mediator will help you to consider whether mediation is right and safe for you.
If everyone agrees to try mediation and the mediator considers that is appropriate, then a first joint mediation session will be arranged. Where mediation is unsuitable, the mediator will make sure you know the alternatives to mediation and will signpost you to appropriate sources of advice and support. If mediation is not suitable for whatever reason, the mediator will supply you with a form confirming that you have attended a MIAM. You will be able to use the form to apply to the Court if that’s what you decide to do.
The Joint Sessions
Joint sessions last 90 minutes and it usually takes between 2 and 3 meetings to come to an agreement, depending on what you need to sort out.
The mediator will:-
- Manage the process of mediation;
- Make sure you both have chance to speak and be heard;
- Listen and help you both to work out what needs to be sorted out;
- Help you exchange information, ideas and feelings constructively;
- Discuss what your options might be and what might work best for the future;
- Provide information to ensure you reach informed, practical, workable arrangements, improve communication and reduce conflict;
- Tell you when you might need further independent advice;
- Ensure decisions are made jointly.
When you reach agreement, the mediator will put it in writing and make sure you’re clear about what it means.
Involving Children in Mediation
Research highlights that a high proportion of children say that no-one spoke to them before, during or after their parents’ separation. For some children, Child Inclusive Mediation offers the opportunity for them to meet face-to-face with a Family Mediator who is specially trained as a Child Consultant. The Government has suggested that children aged 10 and above should generally have access to a mediator when questions about their future are being discussed and arrangements are being made in mediation.
The Child Consultant will meet with the child face-to-face and separately from the parents. Consultations with a child usually last approximately 45 minutes. At the face-to-face meeting, the mediator will gather information about how the current situation is impacting on the child on a practical and emotional level and obtain the child’s views. Children provide information which has the potential to shape and influence family arrangements BUT decision-making clearly remains with parents and it is important that children understand that they are not responsible for the overall decision.