Compulsory MIAMS: what do they mean?

In April this year, changes to the law were introduced, which mean that anyone who wants to use the court system to resolve the issues surrounding their separation must now attend a meeting with a mediator.

The purpose of this Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (or MIAM, for short), is to enable people to receive information and talk through the alternatives to court with a trained professional in order to decide whether any of those alternatives could work for them.

The term 'compulsory MIAM' has created confusion, as it has led people to believe they are being forced to attend mediation with their ex. This is not the case. The only thing that is compulsory is the MIAM itself.

Also - rather confusingly - although the meeting is with a mediator, a MIAM is not just about mediation. There are a number of alternatives to using the court process when you separate or divorce, and a MIAM will take you through all of the options so that you can think about whether you could use them to resolve the issues you are facing with your former partner or spouse. Those options are:

Collaborative family law - using this process, you and your ex each instruct a trained collaborative family lawyer and hold a series of 'four-way' round table meetings, where you discuss the issues arising from your separation and reach agreement with input and guidance from your respective lawyers. You set the pace; you decide which issues you need to discuss and resolve; and you have advice from your lawyers available at every stage of the process.

Mediation - mediation gives you and your ex the opportunity to sit down together with a neutral family mediator and talk through the issues face-to-face, with the mediator guiding your discussions and helping you reach agreements you are both comfortable with. The mediator will provide impartial information about dealing with financial issues and issues relating to children, the court process and court orders. You will leave the process with documents outlining the agreements you have reached, and your mediator will let you know how to obtain the advice required to turn them into a legally binding agreement.
 
Family arbitration - if you are struggling to reach agreement with your former spouse or partner on some issues, you can appoint a trained family arbitrator who will look at the facts and impose a decision, which you must both accept.

The idea behind compulsory MIAMs is to let people know that they don't have to go through a court battle if they separate, and that there are alternatives available, which might help them reach more amicable agreements. If you'd like more information about alternatives to court without attending a MIAM, you can use our site to find a lawyer in your local area who should be able to discuss these options with you.
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