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How has the update to the Family Procedure Rules affected Private Family Law Proceedings?

View profile for Harvey Gale
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On the 29th April 2024, the Family Procedure Rules were updated and a new term introduced – “Non-Court Dispute Resolution”, or NCDR. The update puts great importance on MIAMs and NCDR, but what does this mean for you, should you be looking to apply to the Court for a child arrangements order, whether that be to spend time with your child, or for your child to live with you?

The Importance of MIAMs

You will be expected to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) prior to making an application to Court. A MIAM is a meeting with a qualified family mediator to consider whether your issues can be resolved without attending Court. The mediator will explore with you the various forms of NCDR, explain their various benefits and drawbacks, and decide whether any form of NCDR is suitable in your specific circumstances.

There are few applications that are exempt from the requirement to attend a MIAM, so it is important to attend one, as the Court may adjourn any application where a MIAM should have happened, and it has not.

The courts acknowledge that a MIAM may not be appropriate in all situations, and if you or your child have suffered or are at risk of harm from the other party, the Court will exempt you from attending a MIAM so long as you can provide evidence in support. There are certain forms of evidence that the Court will accept, such as the conviction of the other party of a relevant offence, a relevant protective injunction against the other party, or a letter from a medical professional or domestic abuse support worker. You also do not need to attend a MIAM if you need to apply for a Non-Molestation Order or Occupation Order.

The Duty of the Court

The Court are under a duty to consider whether the matter would be better resolved through a form of NCDR, and this duty continues even when proceedings have started. This duty requires the Court to investigate in all cases whether sufficient consideration has been given by the parties to the forms of NCDR, and this includes situations where a MIAM exemption is claimed. Should the Court form the opinion that NCDR has not been sufficiently considered by the parties, the Court can suspend proceedings to allow the parties to attend a form of NCDR as this may be considered a more effective mechanism for resolution, than court proceedings.

The Court cannot force Parties to participate in any particular form of NCDR, but if you do not engage with NCDR without good reason, the Court could require you to pay some of the legal costs incurred by the other party. The incentive is therefore to attend and engage with NCDR.

What is the benefit of NCDR?

The main benefit of NCDR is that you do not go to Court. The Court process is adversarial, expensive and a lengthy process. This can lead to a poorer relationship with the other party in the future, which may adversely affect your children and their parenting. NCDR also allows you to retain a degree of control over the decision-making process, when in Court proceedings decisions about your children will be made by the Judge.

What are the forms of NCDR?

NCDR can take many different forms such as Mediation, Early Neutral Evaluation, the Collaborative Law process and Arbitration, which you can read more about by clicking on this link.

If you would like to discuss any area of Family Law, or wish to discuss NCDR further, please do not hesitate to contact Johnson Astills today.

Please call us at our office in Leicester on 0116 255 4855 or our office in Loughborough on 01509 610 312 and ask to speak to a member of the Family Team. Alternatively, you may prefer to email us at or fill in our enquiry form.