What is a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting)?

If you are going through a break-up or divorce and are struggling to come to an agreement with your partner as to how you are going to split your finances, assets and arrangements to see your children, you may be tempted to serve the court papers and get a final and definite decision from a judge. However, it is a legal requirement that before you do so you attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting.

Judges are increasingly supposed to check to see that couples have done all they can to try and reach an agreement between themselves before going to court, as conducting a court case is a very expensive and time-consuming business. The mediation process is an important part of trying to come to an agreement outside of court and the Mediation Information Assessment Meeting is the first part of this process. In the initial meeting, a mediator will discuss the situation with you and see whether or not mediation could be used to help resolve your issues.

Legally, a court is not supposed to proceed with your application for a hearing to resolve a family law dispute until they know that mediation has been considered. If the mediator judges that mediation would be a good move for your particular situation, it is highly recommended that you go through with it. If a judge sees that one partner has rejected mediation and has decided to go straight to court, the final judgement could be affected for the reasons already listed above.

Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting – what does it involve?

In your MIAM meeting, the mediator will explain your options, tell you a little more about what mediation is and how the process works, explain to you the benefits of mediation as well as explaining some other ways in which you could resolve your dispute, go through the costs of the mediation sessions and will also assess whether or not you are eligible for Legal Aid or free mediation.

Your MIAM – separate or together?

You do not need to be in the same room as your ex-partner if you do not wish to; the session can be conducted one-on-one between the mediator and each partner alternately. The meeting will usually last for around forty-five minutes and will be a non-intrusive assessment used to help you decide whether or not mediation might be able to help you. If it will, the mediator will arrange sessions through which you can discuss the details in more depth and help move towards a resolution which suits everybody. If not, the mediator will sign a form which shows that you have attended the Mediation Information Assessment Meeting, which will allow you to issue proceedings through the court, showing that you have tried to settle the matter outside of the court but that the mediator judged this impossible.

Overall, mediation is a positive way to move forward and can be a far less expensive and upsetting way of resolving your divorce dispute. With it, you will be able to move on and begin a new era in your life free of the emotional baggage of an impending divorce.

For a MIAM meeting in a town near to you, call our specialist Family Mediation team  today

SALISBURY [01722] 422300

AMESBURY [01980 622992]

ANDOVER [01264] 364433

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Family mediation — not just for financial issues in divorce

Family mediation has a number of benefits for everyone involved in the process of separation and divorce. For many, the benefits are financial — the mediation service can help to suggest ways in which the financial situation may be divided or property can be split. It’s also financially beneficial in that the huge legal costs of going through court are avoided. However, the benefits a family mediator can bring aren’t just financial.

In most cases considering the use of family mediation is compulsory, in that a judge in a divorce court will have expected you to go through mediation before taking the case to court. Being able to resolve your dispute quickly and effectively will be hugely beneficial to all parties involved, helping you to make arrangements for the custody of children, residence, grandparents’ contact rights and many other issues of dispute surrounding a divorce.

If you take your conflict to court, the judge will have the final say on what happens. one big advantage of using a family mediator however, it is you who has a say in the outcome, with the verdict being based on compromise and agreement. The benefit of the level of communication often seen in mediation can often help overcome barriers and misunderstandings and ensure that both parties are able to come out of the experience positively. Showing your children that you can cooperate and act as adults will be extremely beneficial to them in the long-run.

If you are in a situation where you have recently separated and arrangements for the children are difficult to arrange because of hurt feelings and high tempers, family law mediation could provide an important way for you to resolve disputes quickly and easily. For grandparents, this can be particularly valuable as being unable to see your grandchildren through no fault of your own can be a heartbreaking and devastating thing to have to go through.

Most of the time, people don’t want to have to go to court. They really don’t. The courts are there as a last resort when disputes really cannot be solved by talking or compromise and in situations whereby a third-party judgement is necessary. However, the vast majority of disputes can be solved long before they get to court — no matter how much you might feel things are at a complete impasse.

If you want to find out more about how family mediation can help to resolve your family law disputes,, you will first need to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) in order to find out if mediation is right for you. You are able to visit separately or can visit with your partner if this is possible. If it is decided that using a family mediator would be a beneficial way for things to move forward, you will be given further information as to how you can get the ball rolling and move towards a resolution which benefits all of the parties involved and can help to put an end to hurtful and unhelpful conflict.

Call our specialist Family Mediation team today

SALISBURY [01722] 422300

AMESBURY [01980] 622992

ANDOVER [01264] 364433

OR e-mail our team using the email contact form below

Comments or questions are welcome.

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Divorce and avoiding court – the current position

The majority of UK judges will refuse to allow a divorce case proceed until the two parties involved have attempted family mediation. This is when an impartial assessor mediates between the two parties and tries to hammer out an agreement over the marital assets, as well as access to any children.

Even with growing numbers of law practitioners and relationship specialists advocating the use of family mediators as a less upsetting, more rapid and inexpensive solution, Relate, who are the UK’s most prominent provider of couple’s support, suggest that mediation is still misconstrued as a form of therapy. This is as opposed to countries like Australia and Canada where an established, successful history have made mediation a common route.
Relate claim that the popular but incorrect assumption that mediation can only be utilised by couples where there have been elements of domestic abuse (due to legal aid cuts), has contributed to a severe decrease in those accessing mediation since April 2013 (when the new guidelines were put in place.)

Decreases in the government expenditure towards legal aid has also contributed to a sharp increase in members of the public representing themselves in court. Based on statistics from HM Revenue & Customs, 46% more people went through a divorce case without proper representation in the 9 months preceding Dec 2013, compared to the same period in 2012.

This has led to divorce courts being inundated with self-representing litigants leading to serious delays, warn lawyers. Divorce on its own can be comparatively simple. However, negotiating a financial settlement can be extremely difficult for people who represent themselves in court; most people have no knowledge of the complexities of different types of settlements, or the legal consequences of different solutions, such as splitting pensions.

Another component adding more concern are the changes to tax for couples where the primary asset is the family property. Prior to George Osborne’s Autumn Statement last year, if you were married/in a civil partnership and have separated, if you sold your main property you would be eligible for tax relief on capital gains for 3 years after the separation. This has now been decreased to just 18 months.

Therefore, there is an 18 month deadline regarding the sale of the primary residence, starting from the date an individual leaves the civil partnership or marriage. If this deadline is missed, when the individual that has left wants to realise their equity, they will be presented with a significant tax bill.

Increasingly, couples are choosing to have a prenuptial agreement drawn up for them (also called pre-nup for short.) This gives them peace of mind that, should the relationship not last, they can avoid the cost and complications of divorce.

Pre-nup enthusiasts reason that, despite the unromantic impression that pre-nups give, it promotes a transparent environment where both parties have total faith regarding their joint and sole finances, especially when it comes to aspects such as inheritance left for children from previous marriages, family trusts and bequests.

Not many divorce lawyers would have advocated a prenuptial agreement a decade ago. To this day, they are not legal. Despite this, the number of couples who choose to draw up a prenuptial agreement is growing, bolstered by the milestone court case between German heiress Katrin Radmacher and her ex partner, Nicholas Granatino. In 2010, the UK Supreme Court decided to uphold the prenuptial agreement between both parties. Only this year, the Law Commission lent support for pre-nups to become legal in England & Wales. This is, however, not likely to occur till after the next general election.
Until then, separated partners who are reluctant to negotiate with each other face an expensive, difficult, and perhaps bitter experience, irrespective of house prices rising or falling.

Call our specialist Family Mediation and Collaborative Law Divorce Solicitors today

SALISBURY [01722] 422300

AMESBURY [01980] 622992

ANDOVER [01264] 364433             

OR e-mail our team using the email contact form below

Comments or questions are welcome.

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12 key questions to help you determine your legal options during divorce

Resolution (formerly known as the Solicitors Family Law Association, or SFLA) is something that all the family law team here at Bonallack and Bishop are proud to be members of. The organisation represents over 6,500 family lawyers in England and Wales. In addition to their purposeful campaigning, Resolution produce some very useful material for the legal profession on a number of aspects of family law.

We understand that no divorce is the same, but just recently a document produced by resolution really captured attention of our team here at Bonallack and Bishop – it was a list of questions to help determine the approach you should take when addressing the breakdown of your relationship. Overall, we found the list to very helpful to those contemplating separation, divorce or civil partnership dissolution in starting to think about the wide range of issues they’re going to need to address.

Here are those questions – so if your relationship has broken down, why not go ahead and answer them for yourself. They may just reveal what it is you will need to consider should you move forward with a divorce and how to deal with the process as a whole. But be aware, that they may make uncomfortable reading for some of you.

1. Do you always prioritise what is best for your children?

2. Are you looking for the legal process to be as simple as possible?

3. Do you like to feel in control of the decisions made about your family’s future?

4. Do you wish to avoid a long and tempestuous legal battle?

5. Do you want to keep the costs of a divorce low and under your control?

6. Do you believe that your relationship is equal in terms of power and decision-making?

7. Are you worried that you may be overawed by a partner’s powerful personality?

8. Do you think you will need professional legal help in order to obtain a fair outcome?

9. Do the financial implications of a divorce and financial aspects of your relationship concern you?

10. Do you see divorce as a means to bring closure to your relationship?

11. Do you wish to play a part in the divorce process or would you prefer someone else to handle it on your behalf?

12. Are your personal and family finances in order, while also being clear enough for a third party to understand?

For specialist advice, call our specialist Family Mediation and Collaborative Law Team today

SALISBURY [01722] 422300

AMESBURY [01980] 622992

ANDOVER [01264] 364433

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Legal Services Board to Investigate Online Divorce

The consumer watchdog for the legal industry, the Legal Services Consumer Panel, is to lead new research into the use of do it yourself online divorce offerings. It wants to look at both the risks and the challenges facing the legal firm given the increasing numbers of people logging on to do their legal work over the internet.

A few legal firms [and other non-lawyers] currently offer a download service for basic legal documents as part of their basic service, but new kids on the block such as LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer do nothing but create legal documents online for both individuals and business customers. It’s not completely new model, of course. You have been able to buy a blank will form from WH Smiths for just a few quid for decades now – but thankfully few people have been daft enough to take up that particular offer.

Along with the Legal Services Board, the consumer panel are to undertake new research into the online legal market and will speak to customers who have used online services to ask them to evaluate their experience. The report is expected to be out in the summer.

Many businesses and individuals still get legal advice in a traditional way, but online legal businesses are quickly starting to win a larger share of the market.

The consumer panel stressed that they understood why many people prefer to access divorce services online they are cheaper, quicker, more convenient and there is more choice. However, they also point out that there are some significant potential risks.

In response, the chairman of a leading online legal document company said that traditional law firms should be looking at the way they use online technology. Richard Cohen, who has in the past worked with Admiral Insurance and the AA, told an industry conference that he believed that many in the legal profession felt “threatened” by technological advances. He may be right. However technology doesn’t frighten us here at Bonallack and Bishop – we are convinced that technology will play an increasing role in the future production of legal documents – and that’s a good thing for consumers, provided, and this is a big proviso, that clients are getting the right advice they need. Just being provided with a blank form and being to get on with it yourself is certainly not the answer. It is being seen to see what the legal services consumer panel, and how the interests of consumers of legal services will be protected in the digital age.

However, while some areas of law will be increasingly driven by technology – divorce and family law may well buck the trend. Relationship breakdown involves often highly complex issues, not to mention strong emotions. For the foreseeable future, we think that family mediation will continue to form the best way forward for many separating couples.

Call our specialist Family Mediation and Collaborative Law Divorce Solicitors today

SALISBURY [01722] 422300

AMESBURY [01980] 622992

ANDOVER [01264] 364433

OR e-mail our team using the email contact form below

Comments or questions are welcome.

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Divorcing parents are unaware of the effects of their separation on their children

The online parenting organisation, Netmums, has conducted a survey that suggests that parents who are divorcing are in denial about the actual effects of their separation on their children.

The results of this extensive study that utilised separate surveys for both 1000 parents and 100 children, found that the children were three times as likely to have seen their parents fighting than the adults had ever realised.

Moreover, one in five of the children admitted that they had experimented with drinking to cope and that one in nine children had self-harmed. Significantly it was found that six percent of the children had even considered suicide and that a third of these children had actually tried but were stopped in time. Getting on for a third of under 18s who were surveyed said that they were ‘devastated’ by their parents divorce.

They study also showed that children were more than twice as likely to blame themselves for the end of their parents’ marriage as the adults were to notice that this is what their children were thinking.

This survey has exposed that children hide their true feelings from their parents. As to how the children rationalised the divorce of their parents, one in twelve children explained that they had concluded that it meant their parents did not love them. Another thirteen percent of the children blamed themselves which only five percent of the parents surveyed realised. Just 14 per cent of children felt that they could be honest with their parents about how upset they had been by their parents’ separation

However, it appears that youngsters are able to cope better than their parents, with wider social views of broken families – a remarkable 64% of the children surveyed agreed that divorce was “not seen as a big deal” – in contrast, just 28% of their parents shared that view

From this survey it can be observed that the real effects of divorce on children can be devastating and that most parents do not realise what their children are actually going through.

This blog entry, of course, comes hot on the heels of the earlier blog dated April 4 about a survey conducted by Relate , which concluded that divorce had a very damaging effect on many children. Although we’ve said it before, we think this latest survey provides yet more evidence of the important role family mediation has to play relationship breakdown – at least for those parents who are able to put a space in the mediation process. For them working alongside trained family mediators offers a genuinely quicker and far less acrimonious way of handling the legal issues surrounding relationship breakdown – which is good for parents and particularly good for their children.

Thinking about Family Mediation? Contact us today

  • Call us now on one of the following local numbers

SALISBURY [01722] 422300

AMESBURY [01980] 622992

ANDOVER [01264] 364433          

  • OR e-mail our team using the email contact form below

Comments or questions are welcome.

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When children are involved there is no such thing as a “good divorce”

A recent study by the relationship support charity Relate has shown that there can be no such thing as a ‘good’ divorce when there are children involved.

The study that examined nearly 1000 families found that 58 percent of the separated parents did not believe that a ‘good’ separation was possible when children are involved. Further, over half of the parents acknowledged that regardless of their best efforts to minimise the pain of the divorce on their children, that the experience of seperation had a negative impact on their children.

In terms of the length of the divorce process, 40 percent of the separated parents who were polled said that their separation took less than a year, 43 percent said it took one to four years and 10 percent said that it took 5 years or more. As more than half of the separated parents surveyed admitted that the separation had a negative impact on their children, it is therefore clear that finding ways of reducing the impact of a separation is vital.

This recent survey, has highlighted how drawn out the majority of separations actually are with only 40 percent of those families polled having completed the divorce process in under a year.

The charity has also disclosed a vast increase in couples booking appointments to see counsellors in the wake of the Christmas holiday. This finding therefore goes someway to substantiate claims that there is a rise in divorce enquiries the day after the New Year, a day that has become known as ‘Divorce Day’.

Our conclusion – whilst perhaps there is no great surprise in hearing from Relate that children suffer in any divorce [or any relationship breakdown between parents for that matter], we think it is yet more evidence of the important role played by family mediators. The whole family mediation process works particularly well when children are involved. It allows their parents to emphasise that despite spitting up, they can still work together – a reassurance that children so desperately need.

Click here for more about how to use family mediation for disputes involving children

Considering Family Mediation? Call us today

SALISBURY [01722] 422300

AMESBURY [01980 622992]

ANDOVER [01264] 364433

  • OR e-mail our team using the email contact form below

Comments or questions are welcome.

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MoJ plan huge PR exercise to improve numbers attending mediation

The Ministry of Justice have turned to the legal profession to ask for their help in increasing the public profile of family mediation in the face of figures which clearly show that the number of divorcing couples turning to mediation has fallen sharply since cuts in legal aid. The MoJ’s plan is to make sure that couples are aware of the options available to them to help resolve their difficulties out of Court.

Figures released by the MoJ show an alarming drop in the number of people using family law mediators. Since cuts to available legal aid in April 2013 – mediation costs were prior to then more or less covered by legal aid, but are now restricted to a single payment of between £150 – £350 – the number of couples turning to mediation in the first six month period fell by 51%, with lawyers turning to legal aid for “help with mediation claims” on just 20 occasions during this period.

These figures have been released following a “freedom of information” request to the MoJ. Lord McNally, former minister, made an appeal before Christmas to mediators trained through Resolution, the national organisation of professionals committed to helping people resolve their divorce and separation issues constructively, for them to assist the Government in raising mediation’s public profile.

McNally’s request came at a time when many believed that the MoJ’s intention was to try and remove lawyers as far as possible from divorce and separation disputes – an intention which it would seem is borne out by the figures released.

It has also been announced yet again that it will be made compulsory for divorcing couples to attend mediation before taking their differences to Court – but the truth is that this is not the case. In such disputes, the only person who can be obliged to attend an initial mediation information and assessment meeting is the applicant. As mediation’s success in any event hinges on the attitude of those attending, and a willingness to work towards a conciliatory conclusion, it is unlikely in the opinion of many working within mediation that any attempt to force people to attend will be successful.

Even now, mediation’s success rate is low, with just 12% of more than 75,000 people using mediation in 2012/13 resulting in an agreement being reached, highlighting how difficult it can be in practice to reach a settlement even in cases where couples are willing to try mediation’s conciliatory approach.

So as the number of people turning to mediation as an alternative to the Courts plummets, the MoJ is left with a huge PR exercise to raise its profile – and it may be that the scale of this job means that the PR has already come too late for many legal practices and their clients.

Call our specialist Family Mediation team now

SALISBURY [01722] 422300

AMESBURY [01980] 622992

ANDOVER [01264] 364433                

OR e-mail our team using the email contact form below

Comments or questions are welcome.

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Family Arbitration Put Forward as a Fast-Track Financial Dispute Solution

Reforms planned by the foremost family law judge will allow divorcing couples to use a fast-track “private” justice system to resolve their financial split. Sir James Mumby, who is the President of the Family Division of the High Court, is set to issues a set of draft rules which intend to allow divorcing couples to use arbitration to reach an agreement over their financial settlement, and then only go to court to have the arbitration agreement confirmed.

The judge wrote to all family lawyers to give details of the new reforms which will create a single family court as of April, and stated that he is keen for the system to “move forward” when it comes to arbitration and other dispute resolution services. Sir James used as an example the case of S v S, which was the divorce of a couple who had been married for 26 years and commenced divorce proceedings in 2012. The legal process had reached the stage of decree nisi, and at that point both parties agreed to go to arbitration to negotiate a settlement for their assets of around £1.75 million. Within eight weeks of starting arbitration an agreement had been reached, the couple preserved their anonymity and the legal costs are far lower than they might have been in a conventional case.

These new rules should be welcomed by anyone working in family law, as they point out the many advantaged of going to arbitration, and help build the legal profession’s confidence in arbitration as a way of resolving disputes.

Here at Bonallack and Bishop, we strongly support the use of the three types of alternative dispute resolution for family law problems – family mediation, collaborative law and the new option of family arbitration. However, it is worth pointing out that family arbitrators are still relatively few and far between – and so for many people, family mediation or collaborative law may prove a more practical solution at this stage.

 Call our specialist Family Mediation team today

SALISBURY [01722] 422300

AMESBURY [01980] 622992

ANDOVER [01264] 364433                               

OR e-mail our family mediators using the email contact form below

Comments or questions are welcome.

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Alternatives to Court are not being used by divorcing couples. Why?

Legal aid cuts may be to blame for a dramatic fall in the number of couples seeking to reach divorce settlement via so-called ADR – alternative dispute resolution – methods of dealing with legal disputes outside of the court system.

ADR solutions include family mediation and collaborative law. Figures released by the Ministry of Justice show that the number of divorcing couples attending ADR to try and reach agreement, rather than using the Courts, fell by close on 40% following changes to the legal aid system which have reduced the availability of public funding to assist with the costs of ADR.

There is a concern that as the cuts mean fewer people are taking proper legal advice, in turn fewer are being directed by solicitors towards non-Court based solutions to reach agreement and settlement in divorce and separation cases.

But as part of Family Dispute Resolution Week during November 2013, Resolution, the nationwide group of family lawyers and other family law specialists, commissioned a poll via ComRes which shows that whilst the legal aid cuts are partially responsible for the drop in the number of couples turning to ADR in a bid to avoid the costs and stress associated with pursuing divorce settlements through Court, a lack of public awareness of the options available to divorcing couples is also to blame.

Over 4,000 adults were interviewed during the poll, and a “worrying lack of awareness” of the existence of ADR solutions was evident, with “patchy understanding” and “ill based scepticism” amongst those taking part.

For some divorcing couples, making an application Court is the only way forward. However, for many other people, possibly even the majority, family mediation and collaborative law offer what are often better solutions to family law problems.

The Resolution commissioned poll revealed that:-

• Just 50% of those taking part would consider an ADR solution rather than going to Court if they were to divorce – but the same percentage said that they thought ADR was better for the “wellbeing of couples” and “better for the wellbeing of children”

• Only 23% felt that ADR solutions made the separation terms agreed “clear” to those involved

• Under 25% felt that ADR solutions “protect the rights of both parties”

• 36% did not actually know what Family Mediation was

Having couples going through divorce avoid the Court system is an admirable intention of the Government, but it seems that in practice legal aid cuts together with the fact that the alternatives are not widely known to the public will mean that the numbers taking advantage of ADR may remain low for some time.

Looking for a local Family Mediator? Call our specialist team today

SALISBURY [01722] 422300   

AMESBURY [01980] 622992           

ANDOVER [01264] 364433                

OR e-mail our team using the email contact form below

Comments or questions are welcome.

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