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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Mediation not working as it should

It comes as no surprise to me, and I am sure many others will not be raising an eyebrow at this either. A Resolution survey coinciding with the end of the first year of mediation assessment meetings reveals they are not working as they should be. This is not news. The figures are interesting though. 

It was only a few weeks ago when I gave some thoughts on the first year of mediation (A year of mediation, are things any better?). Of course it has been around longer than that but it was only at the end of February 2011 that moves to make it compulsory first surfaced, and they came into force on April 6 last year. 

Mediation information and assessment meetings (MIAMs) were controversial from the start, not least because they seemed to come out of nowhere and came into force before all parties were fully briefed or courts even had the right forms. There was no clarity on who these mediators would be and what standard they would have to reach to be qualified to conduct a family mediation. 

So it  is fair to say MIAMs have caused some consternation – for me – but it was interesting to read a survey from Resolution last week that showed a general consensus. 

The results show 56% of survey respondents said that court staff are not regarding it as compulsory that a couple prove they have attended a MIAM, 78% of respondents said their local courts are not making an enquiry at the first court hearing or even at all as to whether mediation is appropriate, and 89% of respondents reported that no more than 10% of their clients had self-referred to mediation. 

The survey also revealed huge variations in how courts in different regions are interpreting the rules. Many survey respondents also said that Resolution lawyers who are trained mediators and/or collaborative lawyers can readily identify cases which will need court intervention, so see MIAMs as a fruitless additional hurdle. Others expressed concern about the cost to clients of a strategy that was ultimately supposed to save time and money. 

So you have to ask the question, is this scheme really worthwhile or is it just adding another complication to the divorce process? 

Andrew Woolley
Woolley & Co
UK divorce lawyers


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