Changes to mediation: your questions answered
Q: When are the changes taking place?
A: The changes took place on the 22nd of April 2014. There are some immediate changes to practices and procedures. However, it is highly likely that it will take a long time before the changes take place in practice. It is important that mediators and their clients take immediate notice of their decisions.
Q: What will happen to mediation?
A: MIAMS, Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings, will now become compulsory in the majority of cases. In the past, there were some exceptions to MIAMS in special circumstances. There still will be exceptions, but these will not be as extensive as they once were.
Q: What is meant by parental involvement?
A: In the past, parental involvement (or the involvement of a guardian or other carer) was very prescriptive and had to be defined in very clear terms. However, that requirement will no longer hold and in practice there will be direct and indirect forms of involvement which are specified clearly in the legislation.
Q: What is a child arrangement order?
A: These are a form of child care plan which specify the types of contact which might take place, which is of either the direct or indirect kind. This allows mediators to discuss with parents many different types of arrangement to suit all forms of couple, and their children.
Q: What do the new parental, and child arrangement, restrictions mean in practice?
A: In practice these arrangements should mean that adults have a greater responsibility to use mediation to make decisions about their children. They will no longer have to give fully detailed plans about their arrangements, but rather concentrate on whether their contact is to be direct or indirect.
Q: What is the Child Arrangements Programme?
A: The child arrangement programme sets out new criteria for mediation and law. It makes sure that everything that is done has the child’s interests at heart. It attempts to codify what should be done for the child.
Q: What are the exemptions to mediation?
A: There have always been some exemptions to mediation. However, these have never been fully defined in legal terms. Under the new legislation, it will be necessary to define exactly what the exemptions to mediation are. Again, this is a way to try to encourage couples to try mediation as the first option.
Q: What will happen to the FM1?
A: There is a new replacement to the FM1 form which will be more detailed. It will place particular emphasis on mediation, and procedures which can help the adults to sort out their issues without recourse to a courtroom.
Q: Will these changes mean more bureaucracy?
A: In the short term, it is inevitable that there may be some confusion about which forms to fill in, and how these should be completed. However, as time goes on it is likely that these changes will encourage more couples to try mediation which should be less legalistic.
Q: What is a single family court?
A: A single family court is a court that will only specialise in family cases. It will not hear other types of cases. This means that it will be able to meet the needs of families more accurately. The single family court will include a family centre, advice and guidance and other facilities and arrangements to make the legal process clearer for families.