In This Post
In this post I'll talk you through the MIAM process, which is one of the first steps to getting your divorce. You'll learn:
- What is the MIAM and why do I have to attend?
- How much will it cost?
- What happens at a MIAM?
- And more...
Let's get started...
What Is A MIAM?
The Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting, or MIAM, is a meeting that you must attend before you can make a divorce application to court.
At a MIAM you will meet with a trained mediator who will explain <bloglink>what mediation is<bloglink> and how it could help you resolve your divorce.
You will also be assessed to see if mediation would be suitable for you and your case. If the mediator thinks that mediation wouldn't work, they may suggest other ways to help you resolve your divorce.
Will I Have To Attend A MIAM?
You will normally have to attend a MIAM if:
- You want to make an application to court for a <bloglink>financial order<bloglink> following your divorce.
- You want to make an application to court for a child arrangements order.
- You want to make an application to court for child or <bloglink>spousal maintenance<bloglink>.
Note: The common theme here is that you have to attend a MIAM before you apply to court, and ask a judge to decide a dispute between you and your partner.
If you're just issuing a <bloglink>divorce petition<bloglink>, or if you have already agreed things with your partner and just need the <bloglink>court to approve your consent order<bloglink>, then you won't normally need to attend a MIAM.
What Happens At The MIAM?
At the MIAM you will meet with a trained mediator. They will:
- Explain what mediation is and how it could help you resolve your divorce
- Assess whether mediation would be suitable for you and your case
The aim of the session is to figure out if you're able to settle your divorce dispute without going through the turmoil or <bloglink>expense of court proceedings.<bloglink>
It is a meeting to decide whether or not mediation could work for you, by explaining the pros and cons.
It is not a session where any mediation actually takes place.
The mediator will explain:
- How mediation works
- The benefits of mediation
- The costs of mediation
- Whether you might be eligible for free mediation and Legal Aid.
If the mediator thinks that mediation wouldn't work, they may suggest other ways to help you resolve your divorce.
What Are The Different Types Of MIAM?
There are two types of MIAM:
- A court MIAM, and:
- A private MIAM
A court MIAM is an assessment session that you must undertake before you can start divorce court proceedings (unless you are exempt).
These can be held face to face, but are also now often conducted via video.
If, at the end of the MIAM, you decide mediation might be for you, your mediator will give you more information about the next steps to take.
If, on the other hand, you decide that you're not interested in mediation, then your mediator will give you a certificate to prove that you have at least considered mediation. With that certificate in hand, you will then be allowed to make a formal divorce application to court.
You can arrange a private MIAM if you decide yourself that you might like to try mediation (rather than the court directing you to attend).
They follow the same basic process as a court MIAM, and you can still get a certificate afterward, should you ultimately decide to go to court instead.
In this post I'll mostly be discussing court MIAMs. But if you'd like to know more about the private mediation process, check out my separate guide:
Why Do I Have To Attend A MIAM?
A court battle can be expensive and time-consuming, and should not be undertaken lightly. That's why the courts ask people to attend a MIAM session first, to at least see if mediation (which is cheaper and quicker), might work for them.
But ultimately no one can force you to meditate your actual dispute (it's just the assessment session that you have to attend).
That is, unless you are exempt.
What Are The MIAM Exemptions?
There are some situations where you don't need to attend a MIAM before starting court proceedings.
The most common exemptions are:
- There are allegations of domestic abuse
- There are concerns about the safety of a child
- You need an urgent hearing
- You've already attended a MIAM within the last 4 months
- There is no available mediator within 15 miles
- You and your partner agree and are <bloglink>submitting a consent order for approval.<bloglink>
- There is a <bloglink>Prohibited Steps Order<bloglink> in place.
Note: Domestic abuse can also include non-violent behaviour, such as coercion, threats, or financial control. But whatever the allegations are, you'll need some evidence before you're exempted from the MIAM (such as a police report, medical evidence, or a statement from a domestic abuse support organisation).
The court application <bloglink>form<bloglink> lays out all the possible exemptions, and the types of evidence you might need.
Is The MIAM Confidential?
Yes. Everything that is said during the MIAM session is confidential and cannot be used as evidence in court (should you ultimately decide not to mediate, and go to court instead).
The mediator has a duty to protect your conversations, and your discussions are legally privileged in the same way they would be if you were talking to your solicitor.
The only exception to this confidentiality rule is if there are concerns about the safety of a child or other person, or you tell the mediator that you've committed a crime.
In these cases, the mediator is legally obliged to report the concerns to the police or social services, but will inform you before they do this.
Who Attends The MIAM?
At the MIAM you'll either go alone or together as a couple, and of course, the mediator will also be there. Most couples choose to have separate meetings so that they can communicate more easily without having any one person's thoughts contaminate theirs, and there's no risk of an argument occurring.
The mediator is also often a qualified lawyer, <bloglink>social worker<bloglink>, or other family professional, but they don't represent either party and their role is to facilitate discussion between you and your partner.
You can also each bring along a friend or family member for support.
How Much Does A MIAM Cost?
The cost of a MIAM varies depending on where you live and who you see.
You can expect to pay around £100 +VAT for a MIAM if you are attending alone, or £130 +VAT if you are attending jointly.
Although some online-only services are now starting to offer solo MIAMs for as little as £60.
You might have to pay more if you see a mediator who is not on the government's list of accredited mediators, or if you need an urgent MIAM (which could cost up to £180 +VAT).
If you are on certain benefits (such as Universal Credit, Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance), then you might be able to get help with the cost of the MIAM through the <bloglink>legal aid<bloglink> scheme. The mediator will assess you for legally aided mediation and, if eligible, let you know the cost before proceeding.
How Long Is The MIAM?
The MIAM itself will only last about 45 minutes to an hour at most, but you should factor in some time before and after the meeting to discuss things with your partner (if you're attending together) or to talk to your support person.
If you have more complex matters to consider, such as child arrangements, the MIAM may be at the longer end of things.
Who Will Conduct My MIAM?
The MIAM will be conducted by a qualified mediator. Often (but not always) they are qualified lawyers or social workers as well.
In England and Wales, the mediator must be accredited by the <bloglink>Family Mediation Council<bloglink> (FMC) or have completed an equivalent training course.
You can find a list of local, FMC-accredited mediators on the <bloglink>FMC website.<bloglink>
(Top top: Refine your search by clicking "qualified to sign court forms", so that they can give you your MIAM certificate on completion).
Where Will My MIAM Take Place?
MIAMs usually take place in the mediator's office, but they can also be conducted over the phone or online via video conferencing (such as Skype or Zoom).
Some mediation services will offer home visits if you have difficulty getting to their office, but this is less common.
If you are attending jointly, then both you and your partner will need to be in the same room (or on the same video call) for the MIAM.
If you are attending separately, then each of you will have your own meeting with the mediator. These are sometimes called "shuttle mediation" as the mediator goes back and forth between the two of you.
What Happens After My MIAM?
At the end of your MIAM, the mediator will talk to you about what happens next.
If mediation is not suitable for you (for example, if there are concerns about domestic violence or child safety), the mediator will tell you this and will give you a certificate to say that you've attended the MIAM, but that meditation is not appropriate in your case.
If mediation is suitable for your case, then the mediator will talk to you about what happens next. If you both want to give it a try, then the mediator will arrange another meeting with you (or multiple meetings, if needed) to start mediation.
But, if you feel like mediation isn't the right thing for you, then that's perfectly fine! Mediation isn’t compulsory and no one can force you to do it. The mediator will give you a certificate saying you've considered mediation but decided against it.
If you want to go ahead with mediation, but your partner does not, then the mediator will still give you a certificate to say that you've attended the MIAM.
You can then use your certificate to allow you to apply to court to resolve your divorce dispute. The certificate is valid for 4 months. If you wait longer than this, you'll need to attend another MIAM before you can apply to court.
What Are The Benefits Of Mediation?
Mediation can be a great way to resolve your dispute without the stress and expense of court litigation. It allows an opportunity for open dialogue, which can lead not only towards a resolution but also peace of mind about how that conflict is settled.
Mediation can help you and your partner to:
- Talk about the issues in your case in a calm and constructive way
- Understand each other's point of view
- Reach an agreement that works for both of you
- Save time, money and stress by avoiding court proceedings
- Keep control over the decisions made about your case
Top Tips For Attending The MIAM
If you're attending the MIAM jointly with your partner, make sure you both know what the purpose of the meeting is.
It's also a good idea to each write down any questions you have for the mediator before the meeting. This can help to ensure that everything is covered during the MIAM.
Have a think about what your dispute is really about, and what might be useful information for the mediator, such as:
Can I Bring Someone With Me To The MIAM?
You can, but it's not necessary. You might want to bring a support person if you feel like you need some moral support. But, bear in mind that this person will not be able to take part in the mediation process itself. generally, you should not take any children along to the MIAM.
Is A MIAM The Same As Counselling?
No. A MIAM is a meeting to assess whether mediation might be a suitable way for you and your partner to agree on financial or child arrangements at the end of a marriage, rather than going to court. Counselling is focused on providing support to individuals who want to try and work through their relationship problems so that they can stay together.
What Should I Look For In A Family Mediator?
When you're looking for a family mediator, it's best to find someone who:
- Is accredited by the Family Mediation Council
- Has experience in dealing with cases similar to yours
- That you feel comfortable talking to
If you want to find a mediator near you, the Family Mediation Council has a searchable database <bloglink>here<bloglink>.
What Are The Principles Of Mediation?
The key principles of mediation are:
- Self-determination - this means that you and your partner have the final say on any decisions made and no one can force you to accept an agreement
- Voluntary participation - you can choose to stop mediating at any time
- Confidentiality - anything said during mediation cannot be used in court
- Impartiality - the mediator must not take sides
Do You Need Help Paying For A Divorce Or Mediation?
Whether you're going to court, or considering mediation, the cost of divorce is often a worry.
Well, there are now range of specialist funders who can help with your legal fees, and there is no need to pay upfront.
You can use the specialist funding for:
- Mediations sessions
- Solicitor led negotiations
- Going to divorce court
- And more...
Specialist funding is rapidly becoming one of the most convenient and cost-effective ways to pay for family law cases.
Check out my divorce funding page to learn more: