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Breaking the Impasse in Mediation

January 14, 2020

In a recent consult, a mediator wasn’t sure how to address an impasse on a point of negotiation.

Neither parent had a lawyer yet. Given the parents would eventually need lawyers to provide Independent Legal Advice as a necessary step to make the mediated agreement legally binding, I offered a few suggestions, including:

1) Getting a lawyer on the phone during a meeting to ask for a legal opinion on the matter of dispute. This could help narrow the gap on the matter under negotiation.

2) Similarly, they can bring a lawyer into the mediation office to offer that consultation in person.

3) Alternately, the couple could each retain a lawyer now and consult on sticking point privately/individually.

In all instances, I suggest that whatever lawyer is chosen, there be an agreement that the lawyer cannot be used in a litigation process. This is to deter a lawyer from trying to take the matter out of mediation and into litigation.

Lawyers who are typically better suited to any of the above are those who have had training in either or both of Collaborative Law and mediation.

I learned of these strategies, helpful to the integrity of the mediation process years ago in a workshop with Woody Mosten. In a few weeks, I will be part of his training faculty in a similar workshop in San Diego.


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I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW for counseling and support – to build your successful practice


Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, former parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice

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