There has been recent protocol released by the Government that governs what divorcing couples need to do before they are able to bring matters relating to their financial affairs, or custody of their children before a court.
A Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) will help you find about any alternative methods of resolving your dispute that may be available to you. In some cases it may be possible to sort things out using mediation, which will eliminate the need for you to take your case to court.
This protocol has risen from the belief the Government has that disputes between couples that involve children should be resolved without going to court. This is because it can be distressing for children to see their parents arguing in a formal setting such as a court room. Mediation can not only help address the immediate issues that separating couple are facing, but it can also help make the whole separation process much easier, and can help the couple maintain an amicable relationship. This will also help to make things easier for the children, as knowing that their parents are still able to get along can help make it easier for them to deal with the separation.
Any application to the court that you make will not be accepted if you have not already attended a MIAM, and therefore you will need to contact an approved mediator as soon as possible. If you prefer your solicitor is able to make this appointment on your behalf. You will need to provide the mediator with the contact details of your former partner, and the mediator will then make contact with them to try and arrange an appointment at a time that suits both parties. Although the mediator will make every attempt to try and see both of you in the same appointment, this is not always necessary and separate meetings can be held. In some cases, the couple may prefer to be seen separately.
The initial Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting is an opportunity for you to find out what mediation is, and how it can help you with your current situation. You will also be given information about other types of assistance that may be available to you in order to resolve any disputes over custody of children and any financial arrangements that need to be made. If you decide that you would be happy to try mediation, then you will be able to make a further appointment with the mediator. It is at this appointment that the mediation process will get underway, and the number of subsequent appointments that you will need will depend on the progress that is made.
If you do decide to carry on with court proceedings then the court will want to know that you have attended one of these meetings, and will ask for a Form FM1 that has been signed by both you and the mediator as proof that this has taken place. If you have not attended one of these meetings then you will be asked to explain your reasons why, and your case may not be looked at further until you have taken part in a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting.
There are some occasions where you would not be expected to attend a MIAM before you case is heard before a court. This includes cases where one party has been the victim of domestic violence or if there are child protection issues involved in the case. Mediation regarding financial matters will not be necessary if one of the parties is bankrupt.