Ministry Of Justice report
The Ministry of Justice has released the latest findings on the progress of Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings or MIAMS. It follows an earlier report published last April in which research was carried out principally by way of interviews with mediators and their clients.
The latest report outlines the outcome of quantitative research. It looks at what proportion of those attending mediation both in privately funded and those on legal aid, have used MIAMs before embarking on court proceedings. The study was conducted on a nationwide basis. 300 family law cases that had ended up at court were reviewed aswell as those practices conducting the MIAMs.
The following findings are taken from the report itself:
Practices are conducting an average of ten privately funded MIAMs and three mediation starts each month. There is a tendency for clients to prefer separate MIAMs meetings, with 78% of all privately funded MIAMs being conducted separately. This reinforces findings from the Phase one qualitative findings. The survey also indicates that privately funded mediation caseloads are weighted more towards property and finance and all-issues cases, compared to publicly funded mediation cases. This is likely to reflect the greater financial means among privately funded clients compared to publicly funded clients.
The practitioner survey indicated that referrals to MIAMs and mediations were mainly through solicitors or self-referral, with self-referrals slightly more common. The Phase one report discussed how mediators interviewed felt routes into mediation had changed post-LASPO and indicated that they had observed a substantial fall in the number of solicitor referrals. Although there are no historical data to compare the current findings with, given the qualitative evidence that mediators were relying mainly on solicitors pre-LASPO, the higher proportion of self-referrals than solicitor referrals lends support to the conclusion drawn in the Phase one report.
Although the practitioner survey only provides crude estimates of conversion rates between a MIAM and mediation, it indicates an overall conversion of around 66–76% which supports the general direction of the Phase one findings. The survey suggests that this conversion rate is affected by certain characteristics of the clients involved, such as conversion being less likely when couples attend MIAMs separately compared to together, and among younger rather than older clients.
Non-compliance with the Family Protocol
The survey concludes that in relation to whether the family protocol is being followed before starting court proceedings:
Where proceedings were started, the protocol was complied with in a minority of cases, and levels of compliance and responses to non-compliance varied between courts. It also indicated that where proceedings were started, applicants appeared to have attended MIAMs and/or to have attempted mediation beforehand, in a minority of cases. Often, exemptions were claimed or could have been claimed, particularly in children cases. However, there was also a substantial minority of cases in which either the applicant had not attended a MIAM, or it was unclear whether they had done so, and the non-attendance was not explained. Since the period covered by the file review, the prescribed court forms have been revised to support the strengthening of the protocol, and this ought to improve the data available on compliance.
Almost 1/5 of MIAMs have only one party
The survey highlights that in nearly 20% of cases, the other party fails to attend the MIAM. The most frequent exemption when applying to the court was the unwillingness of one party to attend the MIAM. The authors point out that it reinforces that for mediation to be a viable option in the drive towards keeping such cases out of the court sphere, both parties to the dispute need to be prepared to get involved in the mediation process.
The full report can be found here.
At Paradigm Family Law our trained mediators also have experience in International Mediation or cross border mediation cases and can assist through their international mediation network of connections. If you would like to explore the possibility of mediation or have a family law query, please contact Paradigm Family Law on 0845 6020422 or email us at [email protected] to arrange a free initial consultation with our trained mediators, James Thornton and Frank Arndt.