Mediation by Caucus: Pros and Cons

You may have heard the term “Mediation by Caucus” and wondered if it might be appropriate for your situation. So, what does it mean and what are the possible benefits?

First, we’ll examine the concept of a divorce mediation by caucus, then we’ll look at the idea of caucusing as a tool within a traditional divorce mediation.

There is some debate in the mediation world about whether divorce mediations should be held jointly, completely separately, or a combination of the two.  We prefer  mediations all together conducted jointly, with the divorcing couple meeting in real time with the mediator all working together to reach the best outcome. With caucusing, the mediator meets separately with each party until an agreement is reached. Sometimes, each party hires a lawyer and then caucuses with a mediator. Those are both called divorce mediation by caucus. They keep the parties apart during the whole process in contrast to joint divorce mediation.

While this may sound appealing to a divorcing couple there is some very important information you need to know. Let’s look at some of the Pros and Cons of each method.

Pros of Mediation by Caucus:

  1. A contentious couple would not have to be in the same room (or in the same virtual meeting).
  2. Partners can speak plainly and openly.
  3. The mediator can be blunt with the client without embarrassing them or weakening them in front of the other party.

Cons of Mediation by Caucus:

  1. Separate caucuses take more time, and therefore cost more and bring back some of the issues with a traditional litigated divorce.
  2. There is a significant risk of miscommunications and misinterpretations.
  3. It puts the mediator in a privileged position since (s)he is the only one who knows all of the information.
  4. Each side naturally tries to make the mediator their advocate and the parties may come to believe that they are being manipulated or tricked by the mediator even when the strictest code of ethics is being followed.
  5. It creates the impression that the responsibility for agreement rests with the mediator and not with the divorcing couple.
  6. It prevents the natural opportunity to get through some of the emotional challenges of finalizing what the parties want from the divorce and misses the opportunity to develop the skills of communication post divorce.

Divorce Mediation by Caucus Can Work in the Right Circumstances

In sum, we believe that divorce mediation by caucus does not have the same benefits as divorce by joint mediation, where both parties work together with the mediator to achieve the best possible divorce result. But that doesn’t mean that caucusing as a tool during mediation doesn’t have a place. It can, in fact, be a useful tool for all the reasons listed in the pro column. If couples are having trouble, a single, brief caucus as a part of a mediation could help them help themselves. They may need to be encouraged to be realistic about their position, or they may need additional guidance that is best received in private. It can also be a good last resort before going to separate lawyers and losing all the positive momentum gained during mediation.

The Power of Divorce Mediation

Here at Affordable Mediation we strongly believe in the power and enormous benefit of divorce mediation and we have the expertise and the caring focus that helps us strive to be ideal mediators for your divorce. We believe individuals and families can come out the other side of divorce better than they were before. Whether you follow a joint mediation path with us, or even if some caucusing is required, we are ideally trained and situated to help. Our goal is to make this time as stress-free as possible so reach out to us right away at 602-714-7447.