The results of the 2019 Family Mediation Council survey have recently been released and provide useful contextual information, both for mediators and those wishing to engage in family mediation.
The respondents to the survey had carried out 8,479 Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) or pre-mediation assessment meetings in the last six months. 61% of those meetings led to a full mediation session; that number rose to 73% when both parties attended a MIAMs, a clear indication of the importance of mutual engagement in mediation. Only 25% of cases failed to reach an agreement.
Based on the 122 responses received, the FMC estimates that approximately 37,000 mediations are conducted by registered mediators each year. Half of the respondents relied solely on privately paying mediations, but even mediators working in a practice with a legal aid contract estimate that only 44% of their mediation cases are publicly funded. This corresponds with legal aid data which confirms that the number of publicly funded MIAMs dropped by 66% between 2013 and 2018, partly – it is assumed – because of increasing numbers of litigants-in-person and fewer referrals being made to mediators through solicitors.
Of those mediations, 46% of cases dealt with issues regarding children and 25% dealt only with property and financial matters; the remainder were ‘all issues’ cases. As an indication of the expanding nature of family mediation, some cases involved mediation with grandparents or other family members seeking to have contact with a child; other cases explored the breakdown of the relationship between parent and child.
One third of cases involved children over the age of 10 who were still living at home and in 26% of those cases, children were directly involved in a Child Inclusive Mediation. Although the two areas are rightly distinct, the processes of the family courts – and specifically the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) – remain an interesting point of comparison when considering how to ensure that a child’s views are heard within mediation.
In 15% of the cases mediated within the last six months, domestic abuse had taken place within the family. Conversely, only 3% of cases were assessed as unsuitable due to domestic violence and over 80% of mediators said that they would feel comfortable mediating a case where domestic abuse had previously taken place. These figures would suggest that a significant number of applicants who have suffered domestic abuse claim a MIAM exemption at the outset.
Finally, the breakdown of mediators’ backgrounds was instructive: while a significant number of mediators are practising solicitors, fewer than 5% are barristers. The full results of the survey can be found here.