What Is an Impasse in Mediation and How Do You Get Past It?

The dictionary defines impasse as “a situation in which no progress is possible, especially because of disagreement. In mediation, it is also known as a deadlock. There are times in mediation where I’m working with a couple, and things might be going very well, and we have agreements and then all of a sudden we hit an issue that we just can’t seem to get around no matter how hard we try to do so. Now, this issue can be something big or something small, but no matter what the problem is if neither party is willing to compromise it can be challenging to find a resolution.  Now often to the parties an impasse might signal that the dispute is unresolvable in mediation, as the mediator I often still believe that a workable agreement is possible and continue to work towards doing so.

How Do You Deal with an Impasse in Mediation?

I often implore with my clients many different ways to deal with an impasse in mediation, some of which I’ll share here:

  1. Take a break: usually, something as small as taking a short break can allow the parties to look at things differently when they return. Sometimes this is a short break during the meeting, and other times it’s a more extended break till our next scheduled session.
  2. Set the issue aside and go on to something else, usually a more straightforward problem. By doing this, it’s similar to taking a break where people may look at things differently when we return to the subject, and it also shows the parties that they can work together.
  3. Discuss each parties’ perspective: this allows each party to look at the perspective of the other person and I will often even discuss them putting themselves in the other person’s shoes to understand their point of view better. By doing this, it can help the party understand why someone is stuck on what they are and find a way to move past that.
  4. Caucus: in mediation, a caucus is where the mediator will meet with the parties individually. This time can be used to understand their interests better and often allows them to speak more openly since the other party isn’t there.
  5. Reality-check: this can be super helpful when one (or both) parties are stuck on an idea that may not even be possible. By doing a reality check, the parties can understand why their position may not work as well as better understanding what could happen if the mediation falls apart and they end up having to go to court.

Move Forward 

Are you and your spouse having difficulties communicating? Experiencing an impasse in mediation? Is divorce seeming like the option? Contact West Coast Family Mediation Center to schedule a free consultation.

by: Amanda Singer

Amanda Singer with west coast family mediation center

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