New figures show that divorcing couples are rejecting the compulsory mediation assessment meetings and going straight to issuing court proceedings. In April 2014 we saw Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) become compulsory under the Children and Families Act. These meetings were to take place before a separating couple could file an application for a child arrangements order. The aim was to introduce a cheaper and less confrontational option to the court process.
We are now two years on and the figures from the Ministry of Justice show that for 2014, 849 out of a total of 55,381 applications completed a mediation assessment meeting.
2015 saw a slight improvement, however this was still unsatisfactory as in the first nine months 3,510 MIAMs were completed out of a total of 56,551 applications.
There are some exceptions when couples are exempt from attending a MIAM for example when there has been recent violence. Although, these exceptions don’t make up for the number of uncompleted meetings.
The Ministry of Justice has since said that measures have been taken to improve the number of people attending mediation assessment meetings and how this is recorded by the courts. This has been reflected in their latest figures which show that between May and September 2015 47% of applications involving children show that parents had attended a mediation assessment meeting.
However the question remains, why do people not want to attend mediation to try and resolve issues concerning their children? In my experience some parents have not seen their children for months and do not want any further delay. Or there may be a history of one parent blowing hot and cold regarding the time the children stay with them so they want to have the benefit of a court order. A lot of parents don’t realise that a court order can still be obtained by agreement following mediation to give this protection without the expense and time that the court process can take.
There may also be an issue regarding which school the children are to attend where the parents cannot reach an agreement and need the Judge or Magistrate to make a decision on what is in the best interest of their child.
I and many other family solicitors always encourage parents to try and reach an agreement in relation to their children, rather than have a court order imposed upon them by a Judge or Magistrate who has never met the children and knows little about them.
Figures in this blog have been taken from the Solicitors Journal.