A Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) or first meeting is where you talk with a specially trained professional, often a mediator, who helps you understand what mediation involves, its benefits in the family court process, and if it's the right fit for you.
A MIAM is not a mediation session. The goal of the MIAM is to decide whether alternative ways of reaching an agreement on things like child arrangements and child custody without going to court are possible in relation to your case. That is why it is often referred to as a ‘first meeting’
You might need to go to a MIAM if you are:
Applying for a court order
Applying for a parenting matter on a Form C100 (to make arrangements for a child or resolve a dispute about their upbringing)
Applying for a financial order on a Form A (Give notice of your intention to proceed with an application for a financial order)
Wanting to invite someone to mediation to resolve a problem
In agreement with someone else to attend mediation to resolve an issue
MIAMs normally take place at your mediator’s office, or at another mutually convenient location. They can also take place online, via video call.
A MIAM is totally confidential unless you tell the mediator that you have committed a criminal act or the mediator believes you or someone in your family are at personal risk. Should your mediator need to involve other agencies or services because of this, they will explain this to you.
What happens in a MIAM?
Typically, MIAMs take about 45 minutes to an hour, although the time can vary. During the meeting, you will talk to your mediator about your situation and the issue you are experiencing. This usually follows a structured process and your mediator will ask you specific questions related to the issue, however you will also be given the opportunity to add any other information you feel is important.
Your mediator will also discuss with you:
What your options might be (such as mediation, collaborative practice, or arbitration)
What mediation is and how it works
The benefits of family mediation and other alternative dispute resolution methods
The cost of mediation and your eligibility for legal aid
At the end of the meeting, your mediator will let you know if they think family mediation is the right path for your case and provide a full explanation of their reasoning. They may also help you to connect with other services and organisations who might be able to help you through the family court process such as counselling or debt advice.
In cases where children are involved, the family court always takes their best interests into account when making decisions. Your mediator will explain how your children’s wishes and needs will be considered through the process, especially if they are over 10 years of age.
What happens after a MIAM?
If both parties agree in their separate MIAMs that mediation is the best way forward at that time, then a mediation session will be arranged.
If mediation is not the right option for your case, the mediator will explain your options and suggest next steps in the MIAM.
If you decide to move forward with making an application to family court, the mediator will sign a court form, also referred to as a certificate, that states: “the applicant does not wish to start or continue mediation.” A copy of this is usually emailed to you.
A MIAM certificate is valid for four months from the date of issue. If your application is made to the courts after this time, you will be asked to attend another MIAM. If you lose your certificate, you can request a reissue for free with the original issue date.
Can I choose not to go ahead with mediation after a MIAM?
No-one can force you to go ahead with mediation if you don’t want to. Mediation sessions are voluntary. When making a decision as to whether mediation is the right course of action for you, you should consider the process and benefits, but the decision is yours alone to make.
Who attends a MIAM?
A MIAM involves you and a qualified professional, often a mediator. You are not required to attend a MIAM with your ex-partner, or whoever you are in dispute with. They will attend their own first meeting and reach a decision independently.
If you like, you can bring someone along to the MIAM for moral support. However, you would not be able to bring them along to subsequent mediation sessions.
Do I have to go to a MIAM?
Under section 10(1) of the Children and Families Act 2014, a MIAM is compulsory before making an application to family court that's related to parenting, finances, or property, unless your case qualifies for an exemption. If you believe you are exempt from attending a MIAM, you will have to explain why to the court and potentially provide evidence.
Reasons why you may not have to attend a MIAM include:
You’re applying for a consent order
Any of the children in the application are involved in emergency proceedings, care proceedings, or supervision proceedings
Any of the children in the application are the subject of an emergency protection order, care order or supervision order
You have evidence of domestic abuse and violence
There are child protection concerns
The application is urgent
You’ve previously been to a MIAM or already have a valud reason for not attending one
You can’t contact the other person to arrange a MIAM
You can’t access a mediator
You or the other people in the application don’t live in England and Wales
You or the other people in the application are under 18 years old.
Before you can apply for a court order through the family court, you must have evidence that you have attended a MIAM beforehand, unless you are exempt. Only mediators who hold ‘Family Mediation Council Accreditation’ can sign court forms to confirm that a MIAM has been attending or that certain exemptions apply.
The only other reason you would not have to attend a MIAM is if you are looking to enforce an existing court order or if you want to get a legally binding order by consent and both parties agree on the outcome. What happens if I don’t attend the MIAM?
If you don’t attend a MIAM, a judge can direct that you have to and adjourn family court proceedings until you have. A judge may also decide that non-attendance of a MIAM was unreasonable and order the non-attending party to contribute towards the other person’s legal costs.
The reason why MIAMs are compulsory is because the family courts actively want to encourage individuals to reach agreements outside of court, and alternative dispute resolution is the best way to do this. This is especially true where children are involved, as parents/guardians will need to work together for a long time, so finding amicable ways to make decisions is much cheaper, easier, and less stressful for everyone involved.
How much does a MIAM cost?
How much a MIAM costs depends on your financial situation. If you and the other party are eligible for legal aid, the MIAM is free. If you both aren’t eligible for legal aid, the cost of a first meeting is around £90 per person, although this can vary depending on your location and the mediator you choose.
There may also be a cost for the MIAM certificate. You should check the cost with your mediation service provider before you start. A family mediation voucher cannot be used to pay for a MIAM.
What should I take to a MIAM?
You aren’t required to bring anything with you to a MIAM or provide any documentation at this point. The first meeting is all about discussing the situation and assessing whether mediation is right for your situation.
How do I arrange a MIAM?
You can arrange a MIAM by searching the Family Mediation Council register for a family mediator.
Will I get any legal advice in a MIAM?
Your mediator can tell you what the law says about certain matters, such as financial settlements and child arrangement orders. However, they cannot provide legal advice as the law relates to your circumstances.
That being said, it may be helpful to seek advice from a family law solicitor prior to your MIAM, or indeed at any point in the process. A family solicitor will help you navigate the process and make informed decisions at each stage of the process. They can also represent you in family court should mediation not be an option, or help you carefully consider proposed agreements and apply for a consent order.
Lawhive offers affordable, accessible, reliable legal advice for families, and can give you a fixed-fee quote on your case in less than 5 minutes. For more information and to get a no-obligation quote, tell us about your case and we’ll provide you with a fixed-fee quote and connect you with a specialist family lawyer who can start working on your case the same day.