Mediation & MIAMs
What is mediation?
Mediation is where a neutral third party helps you and your former partner to talk about and agree on a solution to children or financial issues arising from your separation or divorce. Mediation is not about helping you get back together – couples counselling or Relate is the place to go for that, although Relate does now offer a mediation service too.
A mediator will listen carefully and impartially to you both and help you to reach an agreement which may not be possible by yourselves, especially if feelings are still running high.
If you opt for mediation you’ll need to decide if you wish to see a solicitor mediator or a mediator qualified in social work or therapy. I would generally recommend a solicitor mediator for a financial settlement if you can afford one: they will usually be more expensive than the national mediation service but have more experience in dealing with financial cases. It’s helpful to have legal advice before and during mediation for financial issues as the mediator won’t give advice, even when they’re a solicitor, and you may find it easier to negotiate when you have a good idea of what you’re entitled to.
If it’s a financial mediation, this depends on both parties giving full financial disclosure voluntarily. If one party does not do this, then you’ll have to go to court for the disclosure to be ordered to be made.
If it’s issues regarding your children, or a parenting plan you wish to make, a social work or therapy qualified mediator may well have more and more relevant experience in this, as well as costing less.
Unfortunately mediation does not work with narcissists – unless you are willing to agree to everything they ask for, (and even then it probably won’t be enough) because it’s their way or the highway.
What is a MIAM?
A MIAM is a mediation information and assessment meeting. If you have to issue court proceedings, whether for children or property and money, you have to go for a MIAM first.
If there has been domestic abuse in your relationship you are likely to be considered unsuitable for mediation. The mediator will then just sign your court application form and you can send it in to the court to start your proceedings.
Otherwise one of you will go to a MIAM first and then the mediator will invite the other for an initial meeting. If you and your ex then go to mediation together hopefully you will be able to reach an agreement. The mediator will then draw up a Memorandum of Understanding which records what you’ve agreed and why. If it’s a financial agreement you can then take this to a solicitor who will advise you as to whether it is the best agreement for you and if there are any drawbacks to it, or improvements to be made, before drawing it up so it can be submitted to the court and made legally binding and final.
If your mediation breaks down then the mediator will sign your form so you can apply to court. There are other ‘get-out clauses’ on the form too if either you or your ex don’t want to mediate or it’s not convenient for you both to attend.
What is shuttle mediation?
Very occasionally your case may be suitable for mediation but you just can’t cope with being in the same room as your ex. You can both attend the mediator’s office at the same time but be in separate rooms so you don’t have to meet, and the mediator will ‘shuttle’ between you to see if they can help you to reach an agreement. Not all mediators offer this service.
You might also be interested in reading the ‘Legal Structure of Divorce’ a two-minute guide to divorce proceedings.