I’m nervous about my Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting ‘MIAM’.
It’s normal to feel nervous but it’s a relaxed meeting and the mediator will do their best to put you at ease. It’s an opportunity for you both to meet and establish a rapport. The mediator will ask you for background information and about your level of communication with your spouse. They will carry safety checks to ensure mediation will be safe inside and outside the room. They will explore with you the issues you want to resolve. They will explain how mediation works and outline other methods of resolving the dispute. If you have had a sole meeting, they can then contact your spouse and invite them to attend their own meeting. Many clients worry their spouse won’t agree to attend. However, the mediator will explain why mediation has a proven track record and most spouses agree to attend.  
Sometimes the MIAM is held jointly with both parties attending. If that’s the case, then the mediator will spend time with each of you in private before speaking to you both together. Feedback from clients is usually that the meeting is very helpful and provides clarity about how to move forward.
Focus Mediation - Your mediation Questions Answered
My ex is ‘taking me to mediation’ do I have to attend?
Nobody can ‘take someone to mediation’. It’s voluntary and you can’t be compelled to attend. It’s not the same as being ‘taken to court’ where you must attend to avoid detrimental consequences. If you don’t wish to attend, you won’t be judged harshly. However, only in very limited circumstances (usually where recent domestic abuse can be proven) can you make an application to court for divorce finances or child arrangements without first attending a MIAM. There’s no requirement to mediate thereafter and the mediator can issue a form for court to say you have attended the meeting. However, many clients who intend to apply straight to court, decide to mediate after attending a MIAM. 
There’s a misconception that mediation is only for amicable couples who need assistance in settling finances or child arrangements. We often see couples who have very poor communication. Mediators facilitate the difficult conversations that need to take place so issues can be resolved. It’s conducted in a safe space with an experienced and impartial mediator. The mediator manages the process but all the decisions rest with the parties.
My wife has seen a mediator but I don’t want to see someone she has chosen; I’m worried she will have told them awful things about me.
As an experienced mediator there’s very little I haven’t heard from spouses. In fact, I think I can’t be shocked after working in Family Law for so long. Mediators are trained to be impartial and do not take sides. They also don’t make any decisions about your future – they only manage the mediation process. If the first party has painted a very poor picture of the other, the mediator is fully capable of putting that information to one side and hearing from the second party with a completely open mind. Mediators know that our past experiences can heavily influence how we perceive situations. Each party has their own perception and their perception is their reality. Sometimes perceptions aren’t based on the whole picture. When communication is poor, spouses will often draw conclusions and fill in the blanks. In mediation they have conversations that can clear up misunderstandings and assumptions. Sometimes they realise they share similar fears and concerns and that they agree on more than they imagined. The mediator constantly checks that the process is fair and balanced and both spouses feel heard. Fairness goes hand in hand with impartiality. 
Always check the mediator is accredited with the Family Mediation Council. This ensures they are highly qualified and have attained the ‘gold standard’ of family mediation. They will adhere to the FMC rules about professional conduct and standards.
What’s the point of going to mediation? I need a court order or my ex won’t stick to child arrangements.
We know that people are far more likely to stick to arrangements that they have helped make. In mediation it’s possible to create a Co-Parenting Plan. The plan can deal with how often the children will spend time with each parent, what happens during school holidays, what big decisions must be made together and even child maintenance. In fact, it can include anything you want. Once clients sign off their co-parenting plan, many decide not to proceed with a court order. However, if you think a court order will assist, it’s possible to apply to the court for a consent order. The co-parenting plan is sent to the court and you ask the judge to turn it into an order. There’s a no order presumption in children’s cases which means the court won’t make orders unless they believe it’s in the best interests of a child. However, when couples have taken the time to attend mediation and ask for their co-parenting plan to be turned into a consent order, the court will usually agree to do so.
Author: Sara Stoner, Family Mediator, Broxbourne & Potters Bar
Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: info@focus-mediation.co.uk for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) (11 Locations: Milton Keynes, Bedford, Broxbourne, Hemel Hempstead, London, Northampton, Oxford, Potters Bar, St Albans, Harrow and Watford).
Read more about family mediation at:  www.focus-mediation.co.uk