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To Caucus or Not to Caucus?    5 Circumstances When It’s Really Helpful

By: Shawn D. Skillin, Esq.,  FRI Founder, Attorney, Mediator, Collaborative Divorce Practitioner

©2015 By Shawn D. Skillin

A caucus is a private meeting with a mediation client that is confidential between the client and the mediator unless otherwise agreed.  In my early mediation practice I was reluctant to caucus.  I don’t really remember why.  Maybe I wasn’t sure what would happen in there alone with a client and that whatever did happen I may not be able to handle.  Later, I went through a period where caucus was my favorite tool.  Now, I keep it handy and find it useful in many situations.

  1. Reality testing: Reality testing is often best done in caucus especially if the “reality” does not favor the client you are meeting with.  It gives the mediator a chance to give the client some down and dirty basic facts.
  2. Building Trust:  It’s useful in building trust with a party.  It gives you a chance to privately acknowledge their concerns and issues.
  3. Acknowledging the Elephant: Sometimes, I can tell one or both parties has something they want to tell me but aren’t going to say in the presence of the other party. There’s an obvious elephant in the room that is creating a blocking issue. A caucus will inevitable reveal the “elephant” and help the mediation move forward.
  4. Saving Face:  A party is often willing to “give a little” if they don’t have to do so right in front of the other party.
  5. De-escalating: When parties are angry, talking over each other and nothing else is working.  I take a break and then call for a caucus.  This can calm everyone down and get some good work done moving forward.

If you haven’t tried a caucus, give it a go next time things get sticky, you just might find it works for everyone!