What happens in a MIAM?
If you are going through a separation or divorce, you will probably have heard the word ‘MIAM’ being spoken about. This stands for Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting, and is the first step in family mediation. It is a meeting with a family mediator where you get to find out how mediation works and whether it would be suitable for your situation. You may need to sort out what will happen with the family home and other properties which you may own, other finances including your pensions, child and spousal maintenance, as well as where the children will live and how they will spend time with each parent.
At a MIAM, I ask questions about the specifics of what needs to get resolved, plus some background information, as well as how the current communication is between you and your ex partner. This enables me to build a picture of how mediation might work for you, and some of the things I may need to consider that may help and support you both, as well as some of the things that you may need to think about. I will explain what happens if you both decide to go ahead with mediation, and the process you will go through in order to reach a financial settlement, or agree on a parenting plan / arrangements for your children. I will also give you an estimate of how many sessions you are likely to need and the all inclusive costs so that you can plan your budget accordingly, and compare this with the costs of the alternatives.
You can attend a MIAM on your own (£75), or with your ex partner (£60 each). Either way, time will spent with you both separately. If you attend alone, the meeting lasts for approximately 45 minutes and if with your ex partner, about an hour and a quarter. Attending a MIAM is a legal requirement before being able to make an application to the court regarding financial matters and arrangements for children.
Many people feel reluctant to come to a MIAM, seeing it as a tick box exercise with no intention of seeing what mediation might offer. In my experience however, talking to a mediator, asking some questions, and finding out a bit more often leaves people thinking that they have nothing to lose, and can save on legal and court fees, time, stress and emotional upheaval.
With a background in counseling, I understand a lot about how people are feeling at the time of divorce and separation, the stress, anger and upset that they may be feeling at the same time as having to sort out the huge issues of what will happen to the family home, and who the children are going to live with. Being empathetic to this helps as people feel validated, heard and understood, and this can make it a whole lot easier to navigate what might feel like a baffling minefield.
Mediation offers a space where both parties are treated fairly, where the mediator makes sure that parties listen to each other (even if they don’t agree), and where there is the opportunity to share ideas with each other whilst a neutral and impartial professional guides you through the process.
Therefore if you have preconceived ideas that mediation is not for you, my suggestion would be to come to your MIAM with an open mind — you have nothing to lose.