Creative Alternatives to the Courtroom

What Is a Caucus?

One of the guiding values in mediation and collaborative law is transparency. It comes with the territory when one is trying to establish trust with two different parties. Sometimes an issue may arise that one party may wish not to discuss in front of the other. If they both agree, separate meetings may take place. These meetings are called caucuses.

Caucuses can be useful in a variety of situations, but care should be taken not to overuse them. For example, I have seen cases where the husband and wife stayed in separate rooms with the mediator shuttling back and forth between them, all day. Watching the mediator run back and forth reminded me of the “telephone game” I played growing up.

The telephone game is played by lining up a group of players. Someone tells the first player a phrase, and their job is to whisper it to the next person, and them to the next person, etc. By the time the last person repeats the phrase they heard, it is usually significantly changed from the original.    

If a mediator is going back and forth with offers or proposals, there is a danger that they might leave something out, interpret something incorrectly, or relay the wrong message. 

People who prefer to meet at the same table usually overcome the uncomfortable feelings from being in the same room as their spouse. Once the guidelines of the meeting are laid out for them, they know they’ll get to raise their concerns and hear what the other party is saying — within the framework of alternative dispute resolution. If done properly, they can even understand where the other person is coming from.

For more information about caucuses or same-table meetings, contact me here.