In April 2011 court rules were introduced in the family court to make it necessary for anyone wanting to start a court application regarding children or financial issues to first to attend a meeting with a family mediator to find out about mediation and other alternatives to court. These are called Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings or “MIAMS” for short.
Resolution, an organisation for divorce solicitors, has just published some results of a survey of its members. “Resolution is a group of over 6,500 family lawyers and professionals in England and Wales. It promotes a non-confrontational, constructive approach to resolving family disputes.”
The survey was carried out last month and received replies from users of over 100 courts in England and Wales. 114 of their members responded.
There was clearly a huge difference in the way courts were interpreting the new rules;
“· 56% of survey respondents said that court staff are not regarding it as compulsory that a party issuing an application should show evidence of having attended a MIAM.
· 78% of respondents said that their local courts are not making an enquiry at the first court hearing or even at all, as to whether alternative dispute resolution is appropriate.”
In a recent speech to Resolution members, the President of the Family Division, Sir Nicholas Wall, urged practitioners to press the court to make proper use of its powers to encourage parties to use alternatives to court, at every stage of a court process.