Q: My partner and I separated over a year ago and he is being really difficult about paying maintenance for our two sons and sticking to agreed access terms. My mother says I should take him to court but I am sure I recently heard that you can't just go to court now; you have to go through a different process. Can you please explain the process?
A: You are quite right, the procedure has changed. On April 22nd this year the government introduced new rules for people wanting to apply to the court for a Financial Order or Child Arrangement Order. Such orders can no longer be applied for without the applicant first having gone through a Mediation and Assessment Information Meeting known as MIAM. The only exception to the new rule is in the case of emergency applications or where there is real evidence of domestic violence or abuse.
The introduction of MIAMs has in fact been considerably beneficial for divorcing and separating couples as it allows the opportunity for sorting out disputes in a far less confrontational way. It is also a cheaper process than going through the courts. MIAMs do however have to be conducted by an accredited mediator so you would need to go to a firm such as ourselves who has a qualified mediator on their team.
MIAMS can be held separately or jointly with both partners, but either way the mediator will spend some time with each party individually to ensure they have made their own decision to attend and are not at risk of any harm or abuse. At the first meeting the mediator will explain to you how the process works and decide whether it is right for you and your family and how many sessions may be needed to resolve your issues.