15th Apr 2014

Why you can be stopped from applying to court for a children order or matrimonial financial order

– and what to do about it

As of the 22nd April 2014 it will be necessary to have met with a mediator before you will allowed to issue an application for the majority of children or matrimonial financial orders.  This article will explore that requirement and what you need to do about it.

The government is keen to see couples using out of court dispute resolution processes, particularly mediation, far more often.  As a result they have been trying to reform the court system to ensure that people who are about to go to court have at least considered the alternatives available to them.

The result is the need to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting, otherwise known as a MIAM.

The MIAM will be a required meeting between a mediator who has been trained to deliver these meetings, and the proposed applicant.  The meeting will last between 20 and 60 minutes.  In the meeting the mediator and the applicant will go through the range of processes that the applicant could use in an attempt to reach an agreement with the other party.  The mediator will also assess whether mediation could be suitable in the circumstances.

Note that although the applicant has to attend the MIAM there is only an expectation that the partner who is not making the application will do so.  There may be repercussions further down the line if they choose not to – a Judge at a future hearing may look unfavourably upon a refusal to attend a MIAM and could even make costs orders against the non-compliant party or order that the proceedings be paused for a while pending the other party meets with a suitable mediator.

Legal aid might be available to pay for the MIAM session and, if it is available for one of the couple then it will also pay for the other partner even though they might not qualify for legal aid themselves.

Who will need to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting?

You must attend a MIAM and have the mediator complete the relevant section on your children order or financial order application form if you are applying to the court for any of the following;

Children Orders

  • Contact, residence, prohibited steps or specific issue orders
  • A parental responsibility order
  • Appointing a guardian or applying for a special guardianship order
  • Change of child’s surname or seeking leave to remove a child from the United Kingdom
  • or a Variation order on any of the above.

Financial Orders

  • An order for interim maintenance
  • An order for periodical payments or a lump sum payment
  • A property adjustment order transferring property between a married couple
  • An order varying an earlier periodical payments order
  • A pension sharing order or pension compensation sharing order
  • An order for financial provision for children of non-married parents under the Children Act 1989
  • Other more specialised applications

There are limited exemptions to the need to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting.

If the application is for the court to approve an order that has already been agreed between you, whether relating to financial or children matters, then the MIAM requirement does not apply.

The MIAM is also waived if the application is to enforce a financial order that has already been made or agreement that has already been reached.

You will not have to attend a MIAM if your application is about children in respect of whom there are – or who may already be the subject of – ongoing emergency proceedings, care or supervision proceedings.

There are additional rules to exempt you from the requirement to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting if there is a history of domestic violence or if the person who is about to apply to the court for an order is either bankrupt or the subject of a bankruptcy petition against her or him.

What can you do about this?

You can contact Family Law in Partnership, award winning divorce lawyers and mediators in Covent Garden, London to arrange your Mediation Information and Assessment meeting right now.  They are able to assess you for public funding – or legal aid – if that is an issue.

If you need a MIAM and want to explore mediation as a way to resolve matters then contact us today, confidentially, on hello@FLiP.co.uk or telephone 020 7420 5000.

We look forward to being able to help you.