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Minnesota Parenting Consultants and Parenting Time Expeditors (PTE)

Parenting Consultants and Parenting Time Expeditors
minnesota parenting consultants and parenting time expeditors

For Legal Assistance Call
(612) 240-8005

All to often, disputes regarding custody an parenting time do not end with the final divorce degree or paternity order.

When parenting disputes arise regarding legal custody decisions, parenting time issues or even modifications, there are options available to parties outside of the court room. In addition to mediation, a court, based on a motion of a party or on it s own, may order the appointment of a parenting specialist such as a parenting consultant or a parenting time expeditor.

The Parenting Consultant

A Parenting Consultant is a neutral party whose role it is to assist parents in divorce, paternity or legal separation matters with their parenting issues. The Parenting Consultant often fills the role of a child development specialist who may be called on when disputes occur between parents to mediate the disputed issue and to provide insight into parenting decisions and their impact on children

A Parenting Consultant may be agreed upon by both parents, either as art of a legal case or after it has been concluded. It is important to note that a parenting consultant cannot make decisions for the parents or to resolve ay disputes unless otherwise empowered to do so by a court order. Instead, a Parenting Consultant provides expert opinion or advice and encourages the parents to resolve their own disputes through dialogue and discussion. When parents are unable or unwilling to agree, the Parenting Consultant may make recommendations regarding solutions that would benefit the children. As a result, a parenting consultant may testify in any subsequent court proceedings regarding the nature of the parental discussions and provide to the court that Parenting consultant's opinion on any disputed parenting issue. There is no confidentiality between the parenting consultant or the parties under law.

The Parenting Time Expeditor (PTE).

A Parenting Time Expeditor is similar in many respects to the Parenting Consultant with the important exception that the Parenting Time Expeditor generally possesses arbitration powers that allow the Parenting Time Expeditor to make binding decisions on disputed issues.

Under Minnesota Statutes Sec. 518.1751, the Parenting Time Expeditor may be empowered to enforce, interpret, and clarify existing parenting time orders or addresses circumstances not specifically addressed by an existing parenting time order. The Parenting Time Expeditor's role may be defined and/or limited by the parties who request a PTE or by a court that makes a such an appointment on its own. How the Parenting Time Expeditor's role is defined may often be a product of the types of conflicts that the parents have encountered historically.

  • Is one parent planning on denying the other parenting time during a scheduled vacation of holiday?
  • Is one parent signing the children up for too many extracurricular activities or otherwise interfering in parenting time?
  • Who takes the children to those activities? Who pays?
  • What if the activity cuts into parenting time?
  • Is there a basis to modify the parenting schedule?
  • Does the child need certain medical care?
  • Should the parents be offered a right of first refusal before someone else cares for the child?
  • Should a parent be offered compensatory parenting time when time has been denied?

These are all issues that can be resolved by a Parenting Time Expeditor if the Court order empowers the expeditor to resolve such disputes.

A Parenting Time Expeditor may be appointed to resolve disputes continuously into the future, or for a defined period, or even on a one time issue.

Under Minnesota Statutes Sec. 518.1751, information provided to a Parenting Time Expeditor is confidential. That means the Parenting Time Expeditor can only contact third parties, including the children, with the written permission of both parties. Moreover, a Parenting Time Expeditor cannot testify in court unless specifically empowered by a court order to allow such testimony.

There are some exceptions to the appointment of a Parenting Time Expeditor. For example, a party may not be required to refer a parenting time dispute to a parenting time expeditor if:

  1. one of the parties claims to be the victim of domestic abuse by the other party;
  2. the court determines there is probable cause that one of the parties or a child of the parties has been physically abused or threatened with physical abuse by the other party; or
  3. the party is unable to pay the costs of the expeditor.

Any order appointing a parenting time expeditor must identify the name of the individual to be appointed, the nature of the dispute, the responsibilities of the expeditor including whether
the expeditor is appointed to resolve a specific issue or on an ongoing basis, the term of the appointment, the apportionment of fees, and notice that if the parties are unable to reach an
agreement with the assistance of the expeditor, the expeditor is authorized to make a decision resolving the dispute which is binding upon the parties unless modified or vacated by the court.

Prior to appointing the parenting time expeditor, the court shall give the parties notice that the fees of the expeditor will be apportioned among the parties. In its order appointing the expeditor, the court shall apportion the fees of the expeditor among the parties,with each party bearing the portion of fees that the court determines is just and equitable under the
circumstances. If a party files a pro se motion regarding a parenting time dispute and there is not a court order that provides for apportionment of the fees of an expeditor, the court administrator may require the party requesting the appointment of an expeditor to pay the fees of the expeditor in advance.

Neither party may be required to submit a dispute to a visitation expeditor if the party cannot afford to pay for the fees of an expeditor and an affordable expeditor is not available,
unless the other party agrees to pay the fees. After fees are incurred, a party may by motion request that the fees be reapportioned on equitable grounds. The court may consider the resources of the parties, the nature of the dispute, and whether a party acted in bad faith. The court may consider information from the expeditor in determining bad faith.

To find a Parenting Time Expeditor, each court administrator shall maintain and make available to the public and judicial officers a roster of individuals available to serve as parenting time expeditors, including each individual's name, address, telephone number, and fee charged, if any.

Generally a Parenting Time Expeditor must have training in that role. Specifically, under Minnesota Statutes, to qualify for listing on a court administrator's roster of parenting time expeditors, an individual shall complete a minimum of 40 hours of family mediation training that has been certified by the Minnesota supreme court, which must include certified training in domestic abuse issues as required under Rule 114 of the
Minnesota General Rules of Practice for the District Courts. An Expeditor must also attend three hours of continuing education about alternative dispute resolution subjects each year.

If the use of a parenting time expeditor is initiated by stipulation of the parties, the parties may agree upon a person to serve as an expeditor even if that person has not completed the training described above.

Based on Minnesota Statutes 518.1751, subd. 3, within five days of notice of the appointment, or within five days of notice of a subsequent parenting time dispute between the same parties, the parenting time expeditor shall meet with the parties together or separately and shall make a diligent effort to facilitate an agreement to resolve the dispute. If a parenting time dispute requires immediate resolution, the parenting time expeditor may confer with the parties through a telephone conference or similar means. An expeditor may make a decision without conferring with a party if the expeditor made a good faith effort to confer with the party, but the party chose
not to participate in resolution of the dispute.

If the parties do not reach an agreement, the expeditor shall make a decision resolving the dispute as soon as possible but not later than five days after receiving all information necessary to make a decision and after the final meeting or conference with the parties.

An expeditor may recommend to the court that the noncomplying party pay attorney's fees, court costs, and other
costs if a parenting time order has been violated. The expeditor shall not lose authority to make a decision if circumstances beyond the expeditor's control make it impracticable to meet the five-day timelines.

If a party does not comply with an agreement of the parties or a decision of the expeditor, any party may bring a motion with the court and shall attach a copy of the parties' written agreement or decision of the expeditor. The court may enforce, modify, or vacate the agreement of the parties or the decision of the expeditor.

A parenting time expeditor is immune from civil liability for actions taken or not taken when acting under this section.

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