Mandatory mediation; a cure or just a bump in the road to get to Court?

What is mediation?

Mediation in family law is a process whereby you and your ex-partner will engage with a mediator, who is a trained independent individual with knowledge of family law, to try and agree the arrangements relating to your divorce and/or children. Mediation can either be in person or remote, and in a meeting together with your ex-partner or separately. If you and your ex-partner are able to reach an agreement, the mediator can explain and assist you in the next steps into turning your agreement into a legally binding document.

Presently, if you are considering making an application to Court for resolution of child arrangements or finances during divorce, you are required to first attend a Mediation, Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). A MIAM is not necessarily mediation, but it is a method where the mediator will consider whether mediation would be appropriate to avoid Court proceedings. All individuals applying to Court for children and finance matters must go through MIAM unless they are exempt. The main exemptions are cases involving domestic abuse, risk of harm to the child and urgency. One exemption to mediation is that the Respondent, the other person in the proceedings, is unwilling to attend. Therefore in most cases the need to attend a MIAM can very easily be overcome with the other person simply not engaging.

Is mediation effective?

This may explain why despite the current MIAM roadblock to Court proceedings, statistics revealed that between April 2022 and February 2023 the number of proceedings lodged to Court in relation to child arrangements was a staggering 36,487. It also took an average of 46 weeks for such cases to reach finality in the Court process.  From a practitioner’s point of view, many cases are victim to last minute Court cancellations, delays leading to years in the Court system, and unavailability of Judge’s to adjudicate to name but a few. So it would seem that if more cases were resolved before going to Court, then the setbacks families face during Court proceedings could be reduced.

Should mediation be compulsory?

Family law practitioners and families alike have been complaining about the ‘broken’ Family Court system for years, and particularly since lockdown which saw a record number of cases lodged. It seems that the Government is now listening and is set to crack down on this problem. It was announced on 23 March 2023 that the Government plan to make mediation compulsory for separating families. To ensure that this is followed, the Government state that Family Court Judges would be given increased power to order parents to make reasonable attempts to mediate or be faced with financial penalties.

Much like MIAM, this compulsory mediation will not apply to cases involving domestic abuse, child protection or urgency. Yet a further distinction between MIAM and the Government’s new plans will be the requirement to attend compulsory parenting programmes prior to going to Court. The most popular is the Separated Parents Information Programme which parents in Court proceedings are commonly required to engage in during the process. This course aims to help parents understand how they can co-parent and minimise conflict and dispute.

The compulsory mediation proposals from the Government will hopefully bring a culture of genuinely seeking resolution outside of Court, rather than viewing mediation as a small bump to overcome in order to get to Court. This will no doubt bring a reduction to the amount of cases that are litigated, and ease the Court system of the delays and disruptions. Whether this will be enough to overcome the issue of a lack of Judges available and the length of proceedings is yet to be seen.

How can a solicitor help with mediation?

At our firm we strive to seek the least acrimonious route to resolving children disputes, and signpost our clients to mediation where appropriate. Our family solicitors in West London, have experience dealing with all children matters and would be happy to talk to you about the best arrangements for your children. Get in touch with us today. Currently, we are offering a free initial telephone consultation with our family team for new enquires. During this call we will tell you what we can do next to get started. Give our West London solicitors a call now for a friendly chat on 020 8735 9770 or email our family law department at

You can also read more about divorce options in our other blog posts from West London solicitors:

Separation or Divorce? – Navigating Unknown Territory

New Divorce, New Marriage


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