Mediation - the future for most divorcing couples?
By Vicky Medd
Family Mediation, which has been around for a very long time,
has finally become the darling of the government in an attempt to
cut the legal aid family budget.
For several years, it has been a requirement of the Legal
Services Commission for divorce clients who want to apply for legal
aid to take a case to court to have attended an initial meeting
with a mediator who gives information out about mediation, and
invites the other side in the dispute to attend a similar meeting,
to try and encourage people to try mediation as an alternative to
As from April 2011, that was extended to all clients, whether
private or publicly funded, and the meetings became known as MIAMS
- Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings.
The requirement to attend the appointment was not made
compulsory in circumstances where there were fears that this would
raise human rights concerns and access to justice issues.
The judiciary have not, however, been rigorous in assessing
whether clients have attended these meetings, and there has been a
call by Sir Nicholas Wall, president of the Family Division,
recently to practitioners to press judges to use their powers to
make proper use of alternatives to court proceedings such as
mediation, collaborative law, or arbitration.
In the new Children and Families Bill however, the Ministry of
Justice has now made attending a MIAMs a statutory requirement for
starting court proceedings.
It is envisaged that when the cuts to Legal Aid come in as from
April 2013, that significantly more cases will be referred to
mediation services, because the Court will simply not be able to
cope with the number of litigants who do not have solicitors.
Where clients have become accustomed to making applications to
court to resolve disputes about finances upon separation, and
disputes about contact, and residence in relation to children, the
Family Justice System is trying to steer them to mediating to
resolve their disputes instead.