Do I have to attend a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting)?
Family Mediation

Do I have to attend a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting)?

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James Harbottle
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Do I have to attend a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting)? MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting)

Anyone wishing to apply to the court about a family matter must first attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (commonly known by the acronym ‘MIAM’), unless an exemption applies.

As the name suggests, the purpose of the MIAM is to provide the person wishing to make the application with information regarding the availability of mediation to resolve the matter, and to assess whether the case is suitable for mediation.

But many people wishing to make an application have no interest in mediation, and see having to attend the MIAM as an unnecessary delay to their application. They therefore try to avoid having to attend, by coming within one of the exemptions.

MIAM exemptions

The rules specify a number of circumstances where it is not necessary for the applicant to attend a MIAM. We will not go into all of them here, but the main ones are where there has been domestic violence, where there are child protection concerns, where the matter is urgent and where there is no authorised family mediator with an office within fifteen miles of the applicant’s home.

As will be seen, most of these exemptions are out of the applicant’s control – either they exist, or they do not. If they do not, then the applicant cannot use them to avoid attending a MIAM.

However, the urgency exemption can be a grey area, where the applicant can argue that there should not be a MIAM. As we will see in a moment, such arguments can even be raised where there is no real urgency in the case, other than that the applicant wants their application to be dealt with as soon as possible.

Urgent casesconsequences of lying to the court

When the government brought in the requirement to attend a MIAM it intended that MIAMs should be the norm. It therefore drafted the exemptions quite tightly, in an effort to ensure that avoidance of the requirement was kept to a minimum.

And so it is with the urgency exemption. A case will only be considered urgent if certain circumstances apply, such as where there is risk to the life, liberty or physical safety of the applicant or their family, or where any delay would cause a risk of harm to a child, a significant risk of a miscarriage of justice, or unreasonable hardship to the applicant.

The use of the urgency exemption, and its limitations, were demonstrated in a recent Court of Appeal case.

In the case the father was applying for contact with his children, in December 2019. He argued that delay would cause a “risk of harm to the children” and/or cause him “unreasonable hardship”, explaining that staying contact was being withheld, he had not seen one of the children for a substantial time, and that he might not see his children at all at Christmas.

The father was actually granted the exemption. However, when the case went to the Court of Appeal the Court of Appeal stressed the importance of the requirement to attend a MIAM, and indicated that it was clear that this case wasn’t actually urgent, and the exemption should not therefore have applied.

This case may well mean that it will be harder in future for applicants to avoid the necessity of attending a MIAM.

Think carefully, and take adviceIan Walker team

What is clear is that if you wish to avoid attending a MIAM you should, if possible, take advice from an expert family lawyer to see whether you fall within one of the exemptions, and whether you will be able to persuade the court that an exemption should apply.

But you should also think carefully about avoiding the MIAM. Mediation may well be the best way to resolve your matter, without the stress, time and expense involved in contested court proceedings, and avoiding a MIAM could turn out to be a very bad decision.