What is a MIAM?
At a MIAM you will meet with a qualified family mediator, and discuss your personal situation on a confidential basis. Usually this is a one to one meeting, although sometimes you can attend part of the meeting with your former partner if you both want to do so. As things stand, only one of you is required to attend a MIAM to talk through the alternatives to court and decide whether another route could be appropriate for you, your family and your particular circumstances. However, the other person is expected to attend when invited to do so, and the court has the power to tell the person who has refused to attend a MIAM that they must do so.
The mediator will provide information about options available to you to resolve the issues around your separation, and will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each option. The mediator will also ask questions, and make an assessment to decide whether or not mediation is a suitable way forward for you in your own particular circumstances
What is family mediation?
In family mediation, you usually negotiate face to face with your partner about arrangements that need to be made for the future, with the help of one or two neutral third parties – the mediator or mediators.
How is family mediation different to the other options?
Unlike negotiating through your lawyers, family mediation allows you to speak directly to each other, so that you can both explain what you are feeling and what is most important to you. It also lets you focus on the things that really matter to you as a family.
How could a family mediator help my family?
During the mediation your mediator will give you information about how to deal with financial issues, how to deal with children issues, relevant legal principles, the court process, court orders, and how to contact other agencies and specialists who may be able to help. The mediator will ask you important questions about what ideas you have about the future, and about what is worrying you about the present. They may even talk a little about what has gone wrong in the past, although the problems of the past are not the main focus of mediation. The mediator will also set the rules he or she expects everyone to follow. These will include speaking and listening to each other with respect, and working with the mediator to make sure that conflict and any strong emotions that emerge during the mediation don’t overwhelm the process.
Most family mediators work in a relatively informal setting, and all qualified family mediators provide clients with a relaxed and secure environment. During the session, the mediator will record key pieces of information or ideas or particular options in a way that allows both of you to see what has been written and to comment on it. Usually the mediator will use a flip-chart to do this, but many also use more modern technology. You will be encouraged to ask questions and discuss what is being written down. If you don’t understand something that is being said by anyone in the room, or don’t understand something that has been written on the flip-chart by the mediator, say so. It is the mediator’s job to help. Your mediator will be keeping an eye on how you are feeling, but if you feel uncomfortable or worried about anything, it is very important to say so.
If the two of you are able to identify some proposals that you think might work, the mediator will record those proposals in a confidential way, for you to turn into a legally binding agreement after getting legal advice.
How will I be kept safe during a family mediation?
How can I be sure that the mediation process will be fair?
What happens if I say something in mediation but then change my mind?
How private is the process and can what I say in mediation be used against me later?
How do I find a good mediator?
All qualified family mediators belong to one of the five organisations that together make up the Family Mediation Council. The FMA is one of the Family Mediation Council organisations, and our members are all qualified mediators. If you have any queries about a mediator’s qualifications, check with the mediator’s member organisation, which should be able to help.
What sort of people become mediators?
Will I have to pay for mediation, and if I do have to pay, how much will it cost?
If you have a low income and relatively low capital, you may be entitled to legal aid. As you probably know legal aid is no longer available for most family matters that go to court, but it is still available for family mediation. If you think you may be eligible for legal aid, you should look for a mediator who is specially qualified to offer legal aid mediation. The mediator will help you to work out if you are entitled to legal aid, and if you are, your mediator will then ask the Legal Aid Agency to fund your mediation. If later on you want to turn your mediation proposals into an agreement, your family mediator can sometimes arrange for legal aid to pay for you to get some help from a solicitor as well. Not all FMA members are qualified to offer legal aid mediation. Our website shows who does legal aid work and who does not; if you think you may be entitled to legal aid, but aren’t sure, it is usually best to find a mediator who is qualified to offer legal aid. All FMA members will do their best to suggest a local mediator who can help you.
Is there a way of involving my children in the process?
What sort of things will I be expected to do during the mediation process?
- Explain your family situation.
- Set the mediation agenda. The mediation sessions are tailored around what you want and need to discuss.
- Agree the issues that you need to discuss.
- Decide the priority of the issues. Some issues are more pressing than others and need to be resolved first, e.g., short-term financial support, holidays, contact.
- Set time scales to deal with certain matters e.g., for separation or divorce.
- Clarify the issues: sometimes it is not certain what matters are really in dispute and clarifying these avoids future misunderstanding.
- Consider whether any other specialists might be able to help you.
- Find the common ground.
- Provide/obtain information, e.g., complete a financial questionnaire or have a form explained to you. If you have financial issues to discuss, it is particularly important to make sure everyone has a very clear picture of the family’s financial situation. This involves each of you providing details about any property you own, and your income and expenditure, very much as you have to if you go to court.
- Look at the various options and reality test those options. When there are financial issues you will need to give consideration to what everyone in the family needs, especially the children.
- Arrive at the option that best suits both of you and work out the details of your proposals.