On 22 April the Children and Families Bill became law. The Bill has introduced a Single Family Court, removed Residence/Contact Orders and replaced them with Child Arrangement Orders, and parties will now be required to attend a compulsory* Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).
What is a Child Arrangements Order?
The Child Arrangement Orders have replaced Residence/Contact Orders. The idea behind the change is to highlight a presumption of continued parental involvement. The Orders are designed to assist with focusing parents on effective co-parenting and making parenting time arrangements in the interests of their children. The Orders will set out with whom the child is to live, with whom they are to spend time and with whom they are to have contact.
It was initially thought that the legislation would reflect that there would be a presumption of shared parenting. The legislation is seeking to ensure that a child has an on-going relationship with both parents after family separation provided that it is safe and in the best interests of a child. This does not mean an equal division of the time. The presumption is continued parental involvement rather than shared parenting based on division of time.
Since April 2011, people wishing to issue a Family Court Application, including finances in respect of divorce, have been required to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). To date, this meeting, although desirable, has not been compulsory. Since 22 April 2014, it has become compulsory*. A MIAM is not mediation. It is a meeting with a mediator to explore the options available, rather than litigation. The purpose of the meeting is to look at all of the options available to see whether parties can be diverted from the Court process.