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Almost half of solicitors say courts not asking for divorce mediation details

5 April 2012

Almost half of family lawyers say courts are not asking for details of divorce mediation meetings, a survey by Resolution has found.

The finding comes before the first anniversary tomorrow of the government’s introduction of compulsory divorce and mediation assessment meetings (MIAMs).

Under a pre-action protocol, anyone making an application relating to financial or children issues on separation must show that they have attended a MIAM.

However, Sir Nicholas Wall, president of the Family Division, has acknowledged that in some places the protocol is not being followed.

The Resolution survey obtained responses from 114 solicitors last month, using over 100 courts in England and Wales.

Only 56 per cent of respondents said that court staff were insisting that evidence of a MIAM was produced before applications were issued.

A larger majority, 78 per cent of solicitors, said their local courts were not enquiring whether ADR was appropriate.

Sarah Lloyd, dispute resolution director at Resolution, said the lack of constituency in court practice revealed by the survey was striking.

“I think it points to the need for more education of court staff and judiciary,” she said.

“Clear guidance should be put out there. Some of our members feel that clients are finding out about mediation too late, when people are already entrenched in their views.”

However, the survey also suggested a lack of consistency in the way solicitors approached mediation.

While a third of solicitors had referred the vast majority (90-100 per cent) of their clients to MIAM, a fifth had referred only a very small minority (0-10 per cent).

“In the same way that courts need to be clear about the process, lawyers should be aware of it too,” Lloyd said.

She added that Resolution’s figures, along with statistics produced by the MoJ, showed that MIAMs had led to an increase in the use of mediation.

“We are certainly going to see an upward trend, because more people are finding out about it,” Lloyd said. “At some stage it will plateau, just as it did on the publicly-funded side.”

Categorised in:

Divorce Marriage & Civil partnership Children