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Caucuses can help high-conflict couples mediate their divorces

On Behalf of | Jul 6, 2024 | Mediation

One of the reasons that many divorcing couples don’t consider mediation when divorcing is that they assume they’ll have to sit at a conference table across from their soon-to-be ex for days at a time negotiating the terms of their agreements. For couples in high-conflict relationships or who are barely on speaking terms, that can be a non-starter.

Mediation doesn’t have to be handled that way – and often isn’t. Mediation (particularly when it involves emotionally charged issues around significant assets and/or child custody) can be done via “caucuses.” Caucus mediation is also known as “shuttle” mediation.

The mediator “shuttles” between parties

In caucus mediation, a mediator takes turns meeting individually with each party (and their legal representative, when they choose to have them present). They move back and forth between the two parties, discussing and then relaying their terms and offers to the other. These caucuses allow each spouse to meet separately with the mediator. The mediator shuttles between the two parties with requirements and offers made by each during their private caucuses.

These private caucuses let spouses talk more freely with the mediator and share concerns that they wouldn’t want to discuss in front of their spouse because it would just create more anger. (Note that anything shared between one of the parties with the mediator is confidential unless they allow them to share it.) They may also feel freer to share ideas they might fear their spouse will laugh at or immediately reject.

Caucuses can be just part of the mediation process

Mediation doesn’t have to be done exclusively in one format or another. There may be negotiations that a couple can work on together, like what to do with the home, while more fraught issues like custody and spousal support may require some distance while they’re being worked out.

The more a family law attorney knows about mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), the better equipped they are to advise their clients about whether one of these methods could work for them and help keep their divorce out of court. It’s wise to get more information about how various mediators handle these cases before making a recommendation to clients as well.