Can I skip Family Mediation and go straight to Court?

Can I skip Family Mediation and go straight to the Court?

The breakup of a relationship will always be a difficult time for everyone concerned, particularly when children are involved. It is understandable that there will be resentment after a divorce or breakup, which may lead to tension when making decisions for your children or finances. While you may prefer to go straight to the Court, you would need to attend the Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) in most cases to decide if family mediation may be an alternative to the legal process. Mediator outlines why you may need to seek family mediation and the exemptions that may apply.

Family mediation is completely voluntary; but, due to its success in trying to separate spouses to seek their best solutions to problems, the obligation to attend the MIAM was implemented in 2014 before a Court case could be made. The thinking behind this was to ensure that people took the opportunity, if necessary, to settle their differences without facing the expense and emotional burden of going to court.

What are the exemptions for attending the MIAM?

Unless one of the following exemptions applies to your personal situation, you will need to attend the MIAM:

• There is a history of domestic abuse in your relationship and a criminal investigation, subpoena or non-molesting order has been issued.

• The request you wish to make to the Court applies to other family law matters in which you are actually involved.

• There is a need for an urgent request due to safety concerns for a member of your family, whether there is a possibility that a child will be illegally withdrawn from the United Kingdom or if social services are already involved.

• You agree and there is no disagreement.

• You don’t know where your ex partner is.

• The dispute is about property, and one of you was declared bankrupt.

• There is no Mediator inside 15 kilometers as to where you live, or you have approached at least 3 Mediators but have been unable to meet within 15 working days.

• Your former partner declines to participate in MIAM or Mediator considers that mediation is not enough.

• You tried Mediation in the last 4 months and it wasn’t effective.

“If you’re apprehensive about attending an MIAM, be assured there’s really nothing to think about,” Sam explains. “MIAM is a person appointment with both the Mediator who might sit with you and explore why Mediation works, find out more about you and the problems you need to overcome, and who will help you determine if Mediation is right for you. It is then entirely up to you and your former partner to know whether or not you can proceed.”

What is the position of the Mediator for the Family?

One of the reasons why Family Mediation has been so fruitful is that the Mediator remains entirely neutral and is simply there to facilitate a dialogue between you and your former partner. You can either hold your mediation sessions in the same room as your former partner, or you can ask to be in different rooms, but this makes mediation more difficult. The Mediator will listen to both sides of the conversation, allow both parties the opportunity to hear their voices and understand their desires, and help you identify solutions and ways to address problems.

Mediation is not binding, but if proposals are made that the parties want to be binding on them, the Mediator can clarify how the parties can receive a judicial order that reflects the terms of the negotiated agreement.

“Being able to sit down with your former spouse in a comfortable and controlled atmosphere, address problems that are important to you, and then find solutions together, is a much better alternative to the court process that can be emotionally and financially damaging,” Sam concludes. “While mediation should not be seen as a simple choice, it is definitely faster and cheaper than the Court process. Family mediation is not marital counselling, it is a way to settle your disagreements and make it possible for both of you to move on with your new life in a meaningful way. If family mediation is not appropriate or effective, then a court procedure might be required, but it should be seen as the last resort when it comes to attempting to settle child or financial arrangements after separation.”

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