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MIAMs aren’t a guaranteed deal-maker, Resolution tells Lord Neuberger

Respondents to family law organisation's survey finds small proportion of mediations result in a settlement

18 May 2015

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Compulsory Mediation Information Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) are not always effective, Resolution has reminded Lord Neuberger, after he proposed extending them to smaller civil claims.

Since compulsory MIAMs for family cases were introduced in April 2014, a quarter (23 per cent) of respondents to a Resolution survey said judges at courts were exercising their power to require parties to attend a MIAM, and confirmed that the number of MIAMs was also increasing as a result of solicitor referrals to them.

However, two-thirds (60 per cent) of respondents said that less than a quarter of cases in which a MIAM had taken place proceeded to mediation.

So, while MIAMs are effective in getting more people to mediate, the conversion rates to mediation are undoubtedly lower than policy-makers would have hoped, said Resolution chair Joanne Edwards, pictured.

Further, more than half of respondents said very few of the cases that proceeded to mediation after a MIAM resulted in a settlement, with less than a quarter settling. Edwards said Resolution believed this was so because the MIAM comes too late in the process.

'By the time people have reached the issuing of proceedings, many have passed the point where mediation will be effective, or even possible,' she commented.

Edwards continued: 'In our Manifesto for Family Law we argue that information sessions about mediation and other dispute resolution options must come earlier in the separation process, before the case has reached the court. This would give mediation a much better chance of success, as the longer a case is left, the more conflict tends to escalate and the more positions become polarised.'

The chair of Resolution said it was also important to remember that not every case is suitable for mediation.

'The report of the government's Mediation Taskforce last year showed that the expectation is that around 30 per cent of all family cases will be suitable for mediation. The same is likely to apply for other types of civil claims.

'While it is encouraging that Lord Neuberger is supportive of dispute resolution and introducing a MIAMs-equivalent for small civil claims, the experience of most working in family justice over the past year would suggest that the MIAM alone is not going to achieve the hoped-for high conversion rate to mediation (or other out-of-court processes) and settlement,' Edwards added.

Rather, Edwards comments, one must also look at the timing of the MIAM; the manner in which it is delivered, so that all non-court based options are discussed; and ensuring, even in the post-LASPO era, that people are properly supported through mediation by being able to access tailored legal advice.

Laura Clenshaw is managing editor of Solicitors Journal 

@SJ_weekly 

@L_Clenshaw

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Marriage & Civil partnership