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29 JAN 2015

MOJ publishes further research on MIAMs

Journals Manager & Online Editor


MOJ publishes further research on MIAMs
The Ministry of Justice has today published Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) and mediation in private family law disputes: Quantitative Findings.

The first report of this research programme was based on qualitative interviews with mediators and clients and was published in April 2014.

This second report presents the findings from the quantitative element of the research programme. This study was designed to estimate the national use of privately funded MIAMs and mediation, and to examine the proportion of parties, both publicly and privately funded, that have used MIAMs and mediation before applying to court.

The study included a national survey of mediation practices to collect data on MIAM and mediation workloads for privately-funded clients and a court file review of 300 family law cases.

The following 'Conclusions and implications' are taken from the report.

MIAM and mediation workload

The practitioner survey indicates that practices are conducting an average of ten privately funded MIAMs and three mediation starts each month. There is a tendency for clients to prefer separate MIAMs meetings, with 78% of all privately funded MIAMs being conducted separately. This reinforces findings from the Phase one qualitative findings. The survey also indicates that privately funded mediation caseloads are weighted more towards property and finance and all-issues cases, compared to publicly funded mediation cases. This is likely to reflect the greater financial means among privately funded clients compared to publicly funded clients.

The practitioner survey indicated that referrals to MIAMs and mediations were mainly through solicitors or self-referral, with self-referrals slightly more common. The Phase one report discussed how mediators interviewed felt routes into mediation had changed post-LASPO and indicated that they had observed a substantial fall in the number of solicitor referrals. Although there are no historical data to compare the current findings with, given the qualitative evidence that mediators were relying mainly on solicitors pre-LASPO, the higher proportion of self-referrals than solicitor referrals lends support to the conclusion drawn in the Phase one report.

Although the practitioner survey only provides crude estimates of conversion rates between a MIAM and mediation, it indicates an overall conversion of around 66–76% which supports the general direction of the Phase one findings. The survey suggests that this conversion rate is affected by certain characteristics of the clients involved, such as conversion being less likely when couples attend MIAMs separately compared to together, and among younger rather than older clients.

Speaking of the report, National Family Mediation’s Chief Executive Jane Robey, said:

'This new report could prove a useful addition to the body of evidence being collected by government as it seeks to increase the take-up of family mediation. In truth, detailed statistics aside, it doesn’t tell us a huge amount we didn’t already know.

The finding that self-referrals to MIAMs and mediations have become more common than referrals through solicitors confirms our own previously-published research. As we have previously stated, the source of referrals to family mediation have flipped on their head since the legal aid cuts, and we now have more people coming to us of their own accord than those referred by a lawyer.

People are increasingly researching their options for themselves once they’ve decided to separate. There is no doubt that legal aid cuts have led to many people shunning the "traditional" route of heading off to the solicitor’s office – instead they are trying family mediation first.

We have seen the evidence of this shift: visits to our website and phone calls to our national office from people seeking advice have more than doubled since the legal aid cuts were introduced.'
The full report is available to download here.

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