Mediation in court, (or In-Court mediation as its sometimes called) is an interesting process. In April 2011 the MIAM protocol came into effect. This new protocol meant that divorcing couples who wish to apply to the court in the hope of having a judge make a decision creating what they hope will be a fair outcome for finances and children’s arrangements, have to first attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to find out whether it would be more effective to reach a decision on these matters out of court.
Way back in 2009 (and probably even before) the Government knew that they were going to be closing court houses up and down the country and streamlining the entire family law system. The idea behind the MIAM was to free up the court from having to make rulings on matters that in the Governments opinion, should be something that grown up adults could do on their own. Those couples who still wanted the court to make a ruling after checking out mediation could still do so, but the court wanted people to try on their own first.
Since then, even more court houses have closed than anybody anticipated. Legal aid for divorcing couples has gone apart from the most tragic of cases where there is severe domestic violence or child abuse, and even then only for the very impoverished. The Government has completely changed the way divorce petitions are process by creating a number of central processing centres that do the work of several regional courts in a single location. The result: life for divorcing couples is nothing like it was 4 or 5 years ago and mediation in court is something that will likely be offered to you – even if you’ve refused it in the past.
So, what happens now when you finally do get to court? Even though at least one of you has considered mediation in the past and decided it wasn’t what they wanted to do, when you arrive at court on the first day of your hearing process (the FHDRA), the clerk of the court makes a decision as to whether you actually get to see the judge straight away, or whether mediation in court is what you are going to try first and you are sat down in front of a mediator – again.
Of course, you can refuse this and tell the clerk you simply won’t do it, but what might that say to the judge (or magistrate) once you get in front of them? I do mediation in court and my experience is that we often get a last minute agreement and then present it to the judge, rather than asking the judge to make the decision for the couple. What is astounding to me, is that the deal we strike during this mediation in court is often the very same one that people have completely refused 6 months, and £5,000 in costs earlier!
If you would like more information about how to avoid mediation in court and save several thousand pounds at the same time, please contact New Landscape Mediation on 01279 211 657 for a fully confidential, no obligation discussion of your needs.