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.
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
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
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:
- one of the parties claims to be the victim of domestic abuse
by the other party;
- 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
- the party is unable to pay the costs of the
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.
appointing the parenting time expeditor, the court shall give
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
time expeditor is immune from civil liability for actions
taken or not taken when acting under this section.