Welcome to the Family Court, Child Arrangements Orders and Mediation Awareness Meetings
When I switched on the radio this morning it was a pleasure to hear that the main headline on Radio Four was the arrival today of the Family Court. On Radio Five Live this momentous event was the second headline, behind speculation about David Moyes and Manchester United Football Club. Does speculation count as news these days?
A momentous day for Family Justice
The arrival of the Family Court, and other associated reforms, are a genuinely big deal.
As you know I am both a experienced and specialist Family Law Solicitor and an experienced Family Mediator. I have long advocated a greater use of mediation by separating couples or by parents when they encounter difficulties in the months and years after relationship breakdown. The use of mediation, in the right way, at the right time, can save each of the couple both a lot of money and a lot of stress. Where there are children, they are also saved from having to put up with seemingly never-ending conflict, anger and resentment between their parents. I routinely refer my legal clients to mediation and support them through the process, and the system to make the best use of family mediation.
Mediation Information Meetings or Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings or Mediation Awareness Meetings
On the radio this morning, there has been discussion about the attendance at Mediation Awareness Meetings now being compulsory.
Mediation Information Meetings or Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings or Mediation Awareness Meetings (MIAMS) are all the same thing.
Essentially the idea is that the person wishing to make an application to the court must, unless an exemption applies meet with an experienced mediator who will discuss with them whether mediation may be of assistance in their case. Where the person has limited resources, Legal Aid is available, and if they are eligible then the meeting is free of charge. My own mediation service is contracted with the legal aid agency to offer legal aid for family mediation. I am currently undertaking Mediation Awareness Meetings, Mediation Information Meetings, or Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings or MIAMS in Honiton, Exeter and Taunton.
If one of the parties is eligible for legal aid then the Legal Aid Agency will also pay for the initial meeting with the other party, so that the meeting is free for them as well.
If neither is eligible to receive legal aid for family mediation, then I make a modest charge for my time. I also charge fixed fees for any subsequent mediation. If you look through the pages on my website about family mediation you will see how mediation is quicker and cheaper than to achieve the same result through a court process.
My own view is that, where the mediator is also a practicing solicitor, this is of considerable assistance to the couple in mediation, because they can have more confidence that the mediator is able to provide good and helpful information about the legal steps which still need to be taken and are able to assist them in identifying issues where legal advice is still required to enable them both to make informed decisions.
The new Court Form C100
When an application is made to the court for an order in respect of children, the court form that is usually used is form C 100. Below is a copy of the new form. This shows the exemptions to the requirement to attend a Mediation Awareness Meeting. As you will see, the form has to be signed by the mediator who undertakes the mediation awareness meeting. I am expecting to sign a number of these over the coming months after I undertake mediation awareness meetings in Honiton Taunton and Exeter, but hopefully, the massive publicity boost to mediation today will mean that more separating couples will be prepared to give mediation a try.
Child Arrangements Orders
I am particularly excited by the arrival of child arrangements orders. I have already discussed these at some length in earlier postings. What these will mean is hopefully that parents will better focus on the actual arrangements for their children rather than gaining the title of a parent to has a Residence Order or a Shared Residence Order. It is the actual arrangements that matter for the children, and there being a lack of conflict, and parents getting on better; safely and respectfully; which matters the children. These new type of orders, which replace Residence and Contact Orders fit nicely with Mediation Awareness Meetings, and hopefully a greater use of family mediation