Compulsory family mediation – problems emerge

According to a survey of divorce solicitors carried out by Resolution [the national organisation for specialist family lawyers] and reported in the Law Society Gazette, family courts are not always checking if those couples looking to issue court proceedings to deal with their financial and other contested issues, have already attended what are snappily known as MIAMs – or “mediation assessment and information meetings” to give them their full name.

Over the last 12 months, it has become necessary for divorcing couples and other parties wishing to bring family law matters before the courts, to attend MIAMs in order for them to learn about the options of family mediation and collaborative law as ways to resolve any family law dispute. But the latest survey has discovered that the pre-action protocol, in which parties are required to attend a MIAM session, is simply not being consistently enforced.

Over half of those family lawyers who responded confirmed that in their experience court staff are not regarding attendance at these meetings as compulsory before court proceedings can be issued. Whilst approximately a third of those responding confirmed that they were indeed referring most of their family law clients to a MIAM meeting, around 20% said that they had only referred a small minority of clients.

The shortcomings of the MIAM scheme are becoming increasingly clear – even the country’s senior family law judge, Sir Nicholas Wall (President of the Family Division) apologised that these compulsory family mediation meetings “are not working as they should in certain parts of the country”’.

Frankly this comes as no surprise to the experienced divorce solicitor. Both family mediation and collaborative law are great concepts and ones which we really recommend to our clients. However, there only work for some people – those who are willing to work together and focus on a solution rather than battling over every last issue. Any experienced family lawyer will be aware that sadly, some people simply are not prepared to be reasonable and that for those people, compulsory mediation is simply a waste of time and money, and will never work.