As many of you will know, from 6 April 2011 the Ministry of Justice proposed that before anyone made an application to the court in relevant family proceedings (and this is not divorce – relevant means an application in relation to money matters or children issues), the person making the application should contact a mediator.
Mediators must be authorised to carry out the mediation information and assessment meetings (MIAMs). The applicant attends an information meeting at which the mediator will give advice about all forms of alternate dispute resolution. This could involve mediation, whereby both parties meet with a trained mediator to see if the three can make any progress with regard to agreeing what is to happen either in relation to financial matters or in relation to the children. The mediator may also discuss a collaborative process, whereby each person going through the divorce or separation has a collaborative lawyer and the four meet round the table to work through what needs to be done either in relation to money, property, etc, or children or both.
Hopefully a form of mediation acceptable to all the parties can be agreed. If not, to demonstrate compliance with the Ministry of Justice pre-action protocol, the applicant would need to provide a form FM1 with their application to the court. This is generally completed by the mediator, but can be signed by the solicitor acting for the applicant.
So what does the initial meeting with the mediator consist of? Generally the mediator will try and meet both parties, either separately or together, and explore with them the various options available. Also whether mediation is suitable if there is a risk of either party being influenced by fear of violence or intimidation. A mediator can also assess whether they qualify financially for Legal Aid for family mediation.
If the parties do qualify for Legal Aid then the mediator cannot charge for this initial MIAMs meeting. If either party qualifies for Legal Aid and they both decide to proceed with mediation, they are given the option of an onward referral to a Legal Aid Mediation Service if that particular mediator does not offer Legal Aid mediation. The parties can decide to stay with their mediator, or choose the collaborative option.
The role of the mediator is of course totally mutual. Mediators do not give legal advice. For that, in the collaborative process, you need a collaborative lawyer or a solicitor, whether or not collaboratively trained.
What will it cost?
At the moment it is approximately £75 per person for attending the MIAMs meeting, or £120 if the parties attend jointly.
If the parties decide to proceed to mediation the cost will, subject to any particular consideration, be approximately £180 per hour per couple, with additional charges for the production of documents, depending on the amount of work involved. The fees can be shared between the parties on a 50/50 basis, or in any other way that they may agree.
For more information about mediation, collaboration or any other aspects of divorce or separation please contact Nicky Gough at firstname.lastname@example.org or see our website www.cotswoldfamilylaw.co.uk.