Family Law Reform: A Legal Requirement to attend a meeting to find out about Mediation from Tuesday 22 April 2014 in many Family Cases

The countdown to Family Law changes gathers pace

we are both a Specialist Family Law Solicitors Practice and a Mediation Service. Our founder Ian Walker, has specialised in family law since 1992 and has been a family mediator since 1996. If you visit the pages about us you will see Ian’s long track record in supporting families to achieve sensible negotiated solutions to their family law problems.

We are therefore very interested in the forthcoming changes to the Family Justice System which will come into effect from Tuesday, 22 April 2014. we sincerely hope that these changes will encourage a greater uptake in mediation. We are well placed to advise clients going through a mediation process as well as assisting couples as their family mediator. We are currently undertaking Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings in Honiton, Exeter and Taunton. We have a contract with the Legal Aid Agency to offer legally aided mediation. We have been independently audited by the Legal Aid Agency and have been awarded the Mediation Quality Mark.

the Law Society have just reproduced on their website a good summary of the changes which was in turn produced by the Ministry of Justice. Please see the following link

Link to page on the Law Society Website summarising changes to Family Law from 22 April 2014

We have reproduced below the section of the summary which covers changes to family mediation.

Family law changes: information from the Ministry of Justice

As you will be aware, the Children and Families Act 2014 was given Royal Assent on 13 March and a number of significant family justice reforms will be introduced from 22 April.

The reforms to the family justice system are aimed at improving the way the system functions as a whole. In particular, we want to make sure that the welfare of children is at the centre of decisions, reduce delays in proceedings, and encourage families to use court as a last resort to resolve disputes. We are:

  • Placing a requirement on a person to attend a meeting to find out about mediation before they are allowed to make certain applications to the family court, for example, disputes over finances or children arrangements (unless exemptions apply – such as in cases of domestic violence).

Mediation

The new legal requirement for applicants to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting: The Pre-Application Protocol (part of Practice Direction 3A) introduced in April 2011 clearly states that prospective applicants and respondents in family cases are ‘expected’ to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM) to see if mediation might be helpful to them, before they can make certain applications.

The Children & Families Act turns this ‘expectation’ into a legal requirement for the applicant so it is more important than ever that you make sure that any prospective court applicant knows that they need to contact a mediator in order to arrange a MIAM.

Revised Practice Direction 3A reinforces the expectation on prospective respondents to attend a MIAM if asked to do so.

The exemptions from MIAM attendance have been amended and are set out in Part 3 of the Family Procedure Rules and in revised Practice Direction 3A.

Where an application is being made for a Section 8 Children Act 1989 order, or for a financial order or financial remedy, you/your client will need to complete new MIAM sections contained in application forms C100, Form A and Form A1. Form FM1 will no longer be in use for these forms, but an amended version of Form FM1 will be used for less common types of private law Children Act applications in conjunction with Forms C1 and C2.

Where your client is the prospective applicant you should advise them that compliance with section 10 of the Act and with Part 3 of the Family Procedure Rules and revised Practice Direction 3A) will be checked before the application is issued and allocated in the new family court. If necessary hearings will be adjourned to allow attendance at a MIAM. More information on this is in the new Child Arrangement Programme (PD12B).

You should also ensure that you make clear to enquirers that legal aid is still available for MIAM attendance and for mediation, including for legal advice in support of mediation. It is essential that your reception/switchboard staff are fully aware of the position on family mediation and legal aid and that they are advising callers appropriately.

You may wish to use public awareness materials produced by the Ministry of Justice andFamily Mediation Council to help ensure the public understands the legal position. Materials make clear that legal advice can be sought at any stage of the mediation process. You can download a leaflet and poster from the Ministry of Justice’s website. An embeddable public information video has been created part of the same suite of products.

We are a mediation service that is based in East Devon. In fact we are the only mediation service that is based in East Devon which has a contract with the legal aid agency to offer legal aid for family mediation. This means that we are the nearest port of call for clients living in amongst other places: Honiton, Axminster, Seaton, Colyton, Beer, Sidmouth, Sidford, Ottery St Mary, Dunkerswell.

Please take the time to read through the materials on this website to see what we have to offer.

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