Mediation – The Brave New World

From the 6th April we have been conducting Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMS) in accordance with the new Mediation protocol. We want to share with you our experiences of how it has gone to date. We hope the below comments will constructively help your clients and you.

Most Courts now refuse to accept the issue of family law proceedings without an FM1 Certificate from the applicant. You can however start divorce proceedings without such a Certificate. A fair number of clients we see for Assessment Meetings have actually started divorce proceedings, and are considering starting children or financial proceedings for which the Certificate is required.

The meetings fall into several different categories.

1. Those who come and see it merely as part of a process and need the FM1 Certificate so that proceedings can be started immediately. (If you have emergency cases like this please indicate and we can arrange expedited appointments). We make a standard charge of £60 inclusive of VAT for the Form FM1 if it is required. The meeting itself (MIAM) is free.

2. Some clients are angry that they do not appear to have had a broad explanation of mediation, or have failed to grasp what it is all about or may want to start mediating there and then. Some come without the proper financial details in support of Legal Service Funding and other essentials. Please impress upon your client the need to read our letters setting out what they need to bring with them to the MIAM appointment and its purpose to save their disappointment.

3. The majority listen very carefully to all of the options available. This includes all forms of dispute resolution. Sometimes very basic parenting information and sign posting to other services is required with leaflets. Sometimes they are sent straight back to solicitors!

Most clients who have taken legal advice are genuinely satisfied with the relationship that they have with their solicitor and do not want them to be excluded. We want to feel that they can go back to their chosen solicitor at any time. (This is something that we encourage as it makes our role as mediators easier if clients have clear and correct legal advice as to their realistic prospects).

We have seen a substantial increase in the work that we are doing and the geographical areas from where referrals are received. Our offices are within 5 minutes of the railway station on foot and we have car parking to help out of town clients.

We have expanded our support staff and have appointed a further mediation co-ordinator namely Sharon McCarthy. This enables us to process referrals and work at a speed appropriate to the need of each individual case. Sometimes mediations are delayed because of the need for further documentation i.e. pension transfer values and agreed valuations. We try to factor this in when making appointments so that progress can be made on every occasion.

Our two main solicitors/mediators Colin Smith (former Chairman of the National Family Mediator’s Association) together with Richard Randall (who trained with the guru of mediation John Haines) are actively mediating. Their many years experience of literally hundreds of mediations have added greatly to their ability to mediate sometimes seemingly the “unmediable” (remember, sometimes suitable mediations take place with separate waiting rooms and separate mediation areas so that clients never actually meet!).

We welcome referrals whether it is for potential family or commercial mediation and have the ability and capacity to deal with these without delay and at times to suit your clients.

Remember we do not currently charge for Mediation and Assessment Meetings. We want to encourage the spread of mediation and are of the view that by making this service free to all it will add positively to the understanding and long term use of mediation. There is a standard charge of £60 inclusive of VAT for the form FM1 if required.

Please keep in contact. Any queries, complaints, tips or praise are gratefully received.