A pre application protocol has been introduced to raise awareness of mediation and how it can be an alternative way of resolving disputes relating to divorce and separation. So people wishing to make an application to court, whether publicly funded or not, will first have to consider alternative means of resolving their disputes.
All potential applicants for a court order in relevant family proceedings will be expected, before making their application, to have followed the steps set out in the Protocol. This requires a potential applicant to consider with a mediator whether the dispute can be resolved through mediation. The court will expect all applicants to have complied with the Protocol before commencing proceedings and (except where exceptional circumstances apply) will expect any respondent to have attended a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) if invited to do so.
If court proceedings are taken, the court will wish to know at the first hearing whether mediation has been considered by the parties. In considering the conduct of any relevant family proceedings, the court will take into account any failure to comply with the Protocol and may refer the parties to a meeting with a mediator before the proceedings continue further.
Once York FMS receives the referral, either directly from parties themselves or from their solicitor, we write to the parties, either offering a date for a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting, or to ask them if they are willing to attend such a meeting to find out more about mediation. This appointment can be attended separately or together. If they then decide they wish to mediate we will arrange a joint appointment and mediation can commence. If the decision is made by one or both of the parents not to proceed to mediation an FM1 form will be issued either directly to the client or to their solicitor. If one or both clients is eligible for legal aid there will be no charge; if both parties are not eligible for legal aid there will be a charge (cost on application).