Do I Have to Go to Mediation Before Divorce?

Do I Have To Go To Mediation For Divorce?

No- this isn’t a requirement for divorce. But it is compulsory if you need to go to court to decide issues about your finances or the children. The meeting with a mediator is called a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (often called a MIAM).

There are exemptions to the requirement to attend a MIAM, such as if the application is an emergency or if there has been domestic violence or child protection concerns, or if the other party is abroad or cannot be located. These and the other exemptions are described in more detail below.

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is very different from couples counseling. In counseling, couples work together with a therapist to try and repair a damaged relationship in an effort to save a marriage or civil partnership. Once the relationship has reached the point where one or both parties have decided to legally dissolve the relationship, mediation may be the next step prior to deciding issues relating to your finances or children.

Mediation is the use of a skilled, trained third party to guide couples through the process of resolving any financial or child-related details or issues that are involved in the ending of the relationship. Since 22 April 2014, almost all divorcing and separating couples in England and Wales who want to use court proceedings to resolve any disagreements about children or money must prove that they have made a referral for a MIAM first. You cannot issue an application at court without either (a) a record of a MIAM referral having been made or (b) claiming one of the specific exemptions explained in the form.

What Are the Benefits of Mediation?

In the midst of an ending relationship, emotions can run high, and couples often have a difficult time working out the details that come with a divorce. Mediation can help couples avoid costly court and solicitor fees by working out the details prior to going to court. The role of the mediator is to help couples find solutions to issues such as finances, child custody, and property arrangements. In many cases, couples just need to be guided to talk through the details in a calm and clear environment, and a third-party mediator can make this process much easier for all involved to avoid costly and painful litigation. Mediation can help you sort out details and resolve issues, such as:

  • First steps to take in divorce proceedings
  • Child arrangements
  • Child maintenance payments
  • Housing issues
  • Separation of finances, joint accounts, assets
  • Settlement of joint debts

An initial meeting with a mediator by both parties will determine if mediation is a viable option for you as you begin proceedings to divorce or dissolve a civil partnership.

The Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM)

As explained above, the Family Court will require at the minimum an initial mediation meeting called a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to determine if mediation will work for you. Many divorce solicitors will recommend mediation as an option if both parties seem amicable and open to resolving the issues and proceedings quickly and without the undue stress of litigation. The MIAM is your initial meeting with the mediator where you will explain your situation to your mediator and discuss any issues to be resolved. In short, the initial Mediation Information Assessment Meeting is meant to assess your situation, explain the mediation process, and decide whether mediation is a good option for you.

If you have children over the age of 10, it may also be possible with the help of a specially qualified mediator for your children’s views to be heard and considered in a safe environment. The meeting with children takes place in a separate meeting with the children and the mediator, the conclusions of which may be reflected back to you afterwards, and which can be a very beneficial part of moving forward for both child and parent.

The initial mediation meeting is held individually with each person to hear both sides of the issue and understand each person’s viewpoint. It also allows the mediator a chance to formulate a mediation plan for resolving disputes once mediation begins. Some things your mediator will discuss with you at your initial MIAM include:

  • How mediation works
  • How you can benefit from mediation
  • The costs associated with the mediation
  • Whether you are eligible for Legal Aid

After your initial meeting, your mediator will let you know if they recommend that mediation will be beneficial to you. Even if they do, you are not required to use mediation. The initial meeting prior to applying for court proceedings is the only requirement. If you choose not to proceed with mediation or if your mediator indicates that mediation is not a good option for you, they will give you a form to complete that will allow you to submit your application for divorce/dissolution with the court. If you choose not to do mediation, you may be asked in court to explain your reasoning.

How Much Does Mediation Cost?

While mediation can save you money in the form of costly court and solicitor fees, it is not free. The cost of mediation depends on your provider and the area in which you live. Ask your mediator how much you can expect to pay per session when you schedule your appointment. In general, most are in the region of around £96 per person for the Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM). Costs vary per session after that depending on the number of sessions you need. You may be eligible for Legal Aid, in which case you would not pay for mediation services. Your mediator can help determine if you are eligible at your MIAM. If you and your partner are in dispute over children, you may qualify for a voucher for up to £500. You can check online to see if you are eligible for a voucher. If you are eligible for Legal Aided mediation, the full benefits will be explained by your Legal aid mediator.

If you do not qualify for Legal Aid, there are ways to keep costs down. Shop around for mediation services in your area. While cheaper is not always better, you will benefit from asking questions to find a mediator that meets both your personal needs and your budget. You may also be able to set a fixed amount of mediation sessions, which could be beneficial in helping resolve your issues more efficiently.

When Is a Mediation Meeting Not Required?

There are some instances where a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting can be exempt. These usually are in urgent situations involving children or domestic abuse. The list of reasons why a MIAM may be exempted include:

  • Domestic abuse - If you are a victim of domestic abuse, you will not be required to attend a MIAM. However, you will need to provide documentation or evidence of the abuse to the court with your application. This can include an arrest report for your abuser, any details of criminal proceedings, or written documentation from a medical practitioner or domestic violence organisation.
  • You live abroad. If either or both of you do not regularly reside in the country, you may not be required to attend a MIAM. If a MIAM is offered virtually, this may not be an exemption option for you.
  • You do not know where the other party lives. If you are unable to contact the other party or do not know where they live, you may be able to waive the MIAM.
  • You have attended a MIAM in the last four months.
  • Child protection concerns. If you need an urgent hearing due to child protection concerns, you may be able to waive a MIAM. The urgency will be decided by the court, so seek the advice of a divorce solicitor or family law solicitor in this instance for assistance.
  • You or the other party have a disability where accommodations cannot be made.
  • One of the parties is in jail or has bail conditions.
  • You are filing for a financial order or a child arrangements order by consent. These indicate to the court that there is the agreement of both parties, and they wish to invite the court to make the Orders legally binding. In either of these cases, a MIAM would not be appropriate.

These are only a few of the reasons why a MIAM might be exempt. If you have questions regarding your specific situation, contact a legal representative for a consultation.

How Do I Know If Mediation Is Right for My Situation?

Even in the most amicable of situations, ending a marriage or civil partnership can be a painful experience, and having couples mediators can make the process easier and less costly for all involved. Meeting with a mediator for a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting will help you decide if you can benefit from mediation services prior to submitting an application to the court for divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership. Mediation is a fair, objective way to work through the details surrounding the end of a relationship. If you and your partner are open to resolving the issues in an open, constructive way, then mediation could work well for you. It can also be very beneficial for your family as a whole in moving forward after the divorce is finalised. Divorce proceedings can be especially damaging to families when children are involved, and mediation can help establish open communication skills that can last even after the divorce is finalised.

FREE Guide on Divorce & Separation

A Step by Step Guide Helping You Face Reality When Your World is Upside Down

get your copy delivered

Find Your Nearest Office

Enter your postcode in the box below to find your closest office.

Newsletter Signup

Our FREE monthly newsletter will keep you up to date with the latest changes to law and also offers lots of great advice and articles.

Call us today on 0800 999 4437

Call Now