FAMILY MEDIATION AND MIAMS – STATISTICS REVEALED
An astonishing finding has come through a freedom of information request. The charity National Family Mediation (NFM) announced that in 2014-15, only 1 out of 20 applications from a total number of 112,000 private family law applications to the court had followed the statutory rule for the applicant, which that makes it compulsory to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) first.
This all led to an announcement from NFM that this data clearly implies the failure of Government’s attempt to keep more families out of court.
In a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM)meeting, a potential court applicant first meets with a mediator on their own in order to address different issues and discuss the benefits of mediation. After the procedure of MIAM is over, the mediator assesses the suitability of the case for the mediation process. If the case seems to be suitable for the same, the potential applicant has to make the decision to proceed with the mediation or not.
The former protocol was changed for making a family application in 2014, where it was made compulsory for potential applicants to first attend an MIAM before proceeding to any court regarding any family matter. Also, there are exceptions to this protocol, for example,in such cases where there has been evidence of domestic violence along with cases involving the social services for child welfare concerns.
Generally, for such exceptional cases, the test is quite high and it is expected from the courts to ask for much formidable evidence before waiving the requirement for an MIAM. Therefore, it seems to be quite surprising that despite such a stringent protocol, there are numerous cases where parties have been able to pass through the court without undertaking the MIAM first.
There are a number of family cases that are suitable for the process of mediation. The numbers of cases where there are exceptional circumstances are quite rare .
Litigants often tend to be provided with a large amount of leverage by the court which enables them to not directly follow the rules of an application. Courts have been under criticism that the evidence required is too strict in order to negate an MIAM, rather than being too lax.
Now there are fewer applications that succeed without the evidence of an MIAM. As per the most recent figures quoted by NFM, 6% of applications had an MIAM in 2015 compared to 1% in 2014. The number appears to be small, but an increment is an encouraging sign.
For whatever reason the protocol is not being followed,the efforts of the Government to keep families out of court has been unsuccessful. The occurrence of new cases in sheer numbers along with unrepresented parties provides a strong evidence of this failure.
Clearly, more support from the side of government is required in order to inform, educate, and make people aware of the fact that MIAMs are compulsory so that it is ensured that the law is properly enforced leading to increased delivery of mediation.