For me, MIAMs did not start on 6 April 2011 when the Pre-Action Protocol for Mediation Information and Assessment came into force. They started somewhere at the beginning of the Millennium after legal aid for mediation had bedded in which required all those seeking public funding to attend a mediation assessment meeting. This led many, including me, to question why mediation was not made mandatory for both publicly and privately funded cases if it was considered to be such a worthwhile process.
Mediation has always been an integral feature of the legal and complementary services offered by Family Law in Partnership – we now mediate approximately 200 cases each year (excluding MIAMs). The implementation of MIAMs in 2011 presented us with an opportunity to engage clients in a meaningful discussion about mediation and the range of other options available to them, enabling clients to reach an informed decision about what might be the best process for them and their families.
So what has our experience of MIAMs been from a statistical point of view? Comparing the three month period June, July and August 2011 to the same period in 2010, the number of privately funded mediation cases has risen by 40%. The number of cases where one or both clients is eligible for publicly funded mediation has risen by 18%. In the same three months we undertook 17 MIAMs (NB: if clients indicated a willingness to attend the meeting jointly this was counted as a new mediation case rather than as a MIAM – the 17 MIAMs were therefore all with individuals). Of these 17 MIAMs, four have resulted in FM1s being sent to the referring solicitor (25%), eight (four couples) have resulted in mediation (50%) and the outcome of the other five cases remains unclear at this stage (25%).
At the recent Resolution ADR conference in Cambridge much discussion involved the inconsistent way that the Courts are interpreting the Pre-Action Protocol, the requirement for an FM1 prior to making an application and frustration surrounding the form FM1 itself. Our experience at Family Law in Partnership indicates that the climate and culture surrounding family proceedings has altered and a significantly increased number of clients seem to be choosing mediation. It has never been my ambition to “sell” mediation to clients, but rather for clients, at a vulnerable stage in their life, to make good decisions about what process might work best for them and their families: I am encouraged by the fact that the implementation of MIAMs seems to have led to an increased number of clients choosing mediation.
Dominic Raeside is Head of Family Mediation at Family Law in Partnership. A mediator for over 20 years, Dominic is PPC for a number of Resolution mediators and has trained mediators both in this country and internationally.
A full version of this article will appear in a forthcoming edition of “The Review” by Resolution.