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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). For Textphone dial 18001 followed by the advice line number. Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

Discuss on our forums

Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM)

This is the first meeting between a mediator and people who are in dispute about something. For example, parents may be starting mediation because they do not agree where their child should live, and how much time they should spend with the other parent.

Its purpose is for the people involved to learn how mediation works and whether they think it will help. The MIAM itself is not a mediation session. The people involved can each see the mediator separately.

If family members want to go to court to seek, for example, a child arrangements order, in most cases they must attend a MIAM first. This is to see if the case can be resolved through mediation before they start court proceedings.

However, there are circumstances when they will not have to attend a MIAM before making a court application. These are when there are child protection concerns, if there is evidence of domestic abuse, or if the case is urgent:

  • Domestic abuse. The person seeking the order will need to produce evidence that they (or the child) have experienced domestic abuse perpetrated by other person.
  • Child protection concerns. The applicant would have to prove to the court that children’s services are concerned about the welfare of the child (or another child in the same household).
  • The application is urgent. For the court to agree the application is urgent and a MIAM is not appropriate, the applicant would have to show that the delay caused by the meeting would be a risk to their safety or the child’s safety. For example, it would:
    • Put the child at risk of harm
    • Expose the child to risk of being removed from the UK unlawfully
    • Run the risk of a child not being returned to the UK (if they are currently in another country).

Other exceptions include the following:

  • The parties have been to a MIAM for the same child within the last four months. If so, the court would not expect them to attend another MIAM before applying for a court order.
  • The parties cannot find a mediator within 15 miles of where they live. Or they have contacted three mediators based within 15 miles of where they live and are unable to get an appointment with any of them within 15 working days.
  • One party does not live in England and Wales.

For more information see:

The Family Mediation Council website for information on how to find a family mediator.

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