What Is A Separate Session?
A separate session is sometimes referred to as a caucus or a private session. It is simply a private meeting between a mediator and one party (with that party’s counsel). I place the parties in separate rooms, and far enough apart that they won’t run into each other easily and uncomfortably in the hall, and will not be able to hear one another’s separate session. I then meet separately with each party. These sessions can be as short as a few minutes and as long as necessary to make progress.
The time spent in separate sessions will certainly not be equal between the parties, but you should not read any significance into that fact. Understand that each person processes information, offers, and emotions differently, so a mediator may have to spend more time with one party than another. It does not mean that I am in the other room “drinking the kool-aid” being served by the other side. Rather, think of it as me taking the amount of time I believe is necessary to move that party closer to a resolution. During a separate session, a mediator may simply gather information before even asking either party to make any offer. Thereafter, a mediator may engage in shuttle diplomacy, moving from one room to another, delivering information, exploring options, and making offers and counteroffers.