Recently introduced regulations will mean an increased emphasis on mediation for family court litigants.

The Family Procedure Rules define, as the name suggests, the procedures and rules to be followed by family courts across England and Wales. They are regularly updated to reflect policy changes and new priorities. The newest update reduces the number of exemptions to attendance at a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). These appointments are held at an early stage in family court cases to encourage parties involved in a family dispute to consider whether mediation might enable them to reach a quicker, less expensive and less confrontational resolution outside court.

Attendees at a MIAM explore how mediation and the ways in which it can help families reach agreement. There is a charge of £120 per person, but MIAMs are free for those on low income and people eligible for legal aid.


Attendance at a MIAM is compulsory for most people who are planning to take a family dispute to court. Until recently, available exemptions included:

  • Domestic violence
  • Child protection concerns
  • When one of the parties is not normally resident in England or Wales
  • When the party planning to take legal action, the ‘applicant’, does not know the current whereabouts of their former partner

But recent Family Procedure Rule changes have narrowed the range of available exemptions. They have removed the option to opt out if one of the parties is not a resident or where the applicant does not have contact details for the other.

In addition, if a potential family court litigant claims an exemption, they will now need to explain to the courts why they cannot attend, even via video link, and provide evidence for this. Cases will proceed even when the respondent in a case refuses to participate in a MIAM without good reason. Such individuals may also be required to pay the costs incurred by their estranged or former spouse.


A further change is a new requirement for applicants to outline their view of out-of-court dispute resolution such as mediation, and to certify this as truthful, in a new FM5 form, which has been designed to encourage individuals considering legal action to consider carefully whether they really should take their dispute to court. If they choose to do so do, they will be required to update the judges at each subsequent hearing on why they have not attempted to reach a settlement out of court. Lengthy adjournments will be allowed for parties who do wish to attempt this.

Other methods of non-court dispute resolution or NCDR are outlined in the revised Family Procedure Rules. These include legally binding arbitration, which is typically conducted by a lawyer or judge, and collaborative law. The latter involves a team of specially trained experts, including financial experts and life coaches, as well as solicitors, all working closely together to help a divorcing couple reach a mutually acceptable range of agreements on financial and parenting matters.

Call us today to discuss how these changes may affect your case.