Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAM’s

We have a situation where the official publicity about mediation information and assessment meetings (MIAM’s) says that clients can tell the mediation service if they want separate MIAM’s, the implication being that a joint meeting is the norm.

The reality is that I, along with most mediators whom I know, offer individual MIAM’s as a matter of course. The desirability if doing that is borne out by the findings of the Mapping Paths to Family Justice report.

It does not actually seem like rocket science. For a start how on earth is a mediator supposed to screen for domestic violence when the perpetrator is in the same building? The very proximity of that person can prevent a victim from feeling sufficiently safe to be open with the mediator.

When I was giving a talk recently to magistrates in Leeds, I was asked about an abusive situation which was alleged to have arisen at a MIAM. If the two people had been offered appointments at different times and probably on different days, that situation wouldn’t have happened.

Aside from that, there is the practical issue of liaising with two people and the mediator to fix an appointment which suits them all. That can be tricky enough when setting up mediation sessions. I am aware of course that some services simply issue an appointment to clients. It has never seemed to me sensible to assume that any client will be able to attend at some time arbitrarily selected by a mediation service.

Importantly, it is my experience that the MIAM forms the bedrock of a successful mediation. I use the meeting not only to give information, to screen and to assess as to suitability but also to gain some idea of what the issues are for each individual. I will more than happily go through any mediation without discussing the circumstances of separation but always ask aboout them at assessment meetings. All family solicitors and mediators know that how a person feels about the separation informs how she or he approaches negotiations in the aftermath of that separation.

A MIAM well conducted is essential as the basis of mediation whilst not being part of the mediation process itself. A MIAM, in my view, can only be conducted well if each client is seen separately.

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