Court proceedings can be very stressful, especially for children. The Court is aware of this and also of the fact that it is parents and not the Court itself that understand what is best for their children. It is for this reason that Courts now encourage parents to attempt to resolve their issues over child residency and contact as well as finances through family mediation. This option can be more cost effective, quicker and most importantly, more amicable.
The introduction of the ‘pre-action protocol’ means that parties applying to the court for court order over their financial or children matters during separation must attend a family mediation information and assessment meeting [ often referred to MIAM]. This appointment enables separating couples to determine whether or not they could use this alternative method of dispute resolution rather than court proceedings.
The purpose of the meeting will be to determine whether or not there is too much animosity between the parties to be able to pursue mediation. Family mediation is not suitable in all cases and if it appears unviable, the family mediator will be forced to concede that the case will need to go to court. At the meeting it will be decided whether or not you are eligible to receive legal aid and the costs of following the mediation route will be made clear to you.
Those who do not or cannot attend the meeting will be forced to fill out an FM1 form which must then be given to the Court. Only a fully qualified solicitors or family mediators will be able to complete such a form.