A Parenting Time Expeditor (PTE) is a Court-appointed parenting neutral who helps parents resolve parenting time disputes resulting from an existing Court Order. The PTE is governed by Minnesota Statutes Section 518.175 and has more limited authority than a Parenting Consultant. The Parenting Time Expeditor may only enforce, interpret or clarify parenting orders that have already been issued by the Court. They can also address issues that are not specifically covered by the Court Order. A PTE can be appointed even if one or both parties object.
Let’s say your Court order says that Parent A is to have parenting time with the children from Thursday until Sunday every other week. You and Parent A disagree about what week is “every other week” and cannot agree on when parenting time begins and ends. If a PTE is appointed in your case, the PTE can work with the two parents to construct a more specific schedule for parenting time, or, if agreement is not possible, the PTE decides which weeks parenting time will occur and what time it begins and ends.
A Parenting Consultant (PC) is also a parenting neutral appointed by the Court but, because the authority of a PC is broader than a PTE, the parties must agree on the appointment. The Court cannot appoint a Parenting Consultant without the consent of both parents.
Much like a PTE, the most common issues addressed by a PC relate to parenting time. However, a Parenting Consultant also has the authority to modify a parenting schedule, temporarily or permanently, if the PC feels the modification is in the best interests of the child or children. A Parenting Time Expeditor is limited by what is in the Court Order, so a party seeking a change in the parenting schedule needs to go to Court to ask for the changes they want.
The PC may also make decisions regarding medical issues, school placement, daycare selection and extra-curricular activities, among other things. A PTE does not have any authority over these issues, so the parties would need to go back to Court to resolve disputes.
Lastly, the PTE process is confidential, which means that the PTE cannot be called into Court to explain a decision or be called as a witness for either party. The Parenting Time Expeditor cannot communicate anything about the process to anyone except the parties unless both parties agree. This includes either party’s attorney.
The Parenting Consulting process is not confidential. A PC can be called as a witness in Court and can testify about facts involved in a disputed issue.
Most uncoupled parents encounter parenting issues that they did not think about or that were not relevant when the parenting order was issued. Having a PC or PTE appointed can result in a quicker resolution of those issues at much less cost. There are usually no attorneys involved in the PC or PTE process and a decision is issued by the PC or PTE within a few days after all necessary information is received. Without a PC or PTE, parties may wait several weeks for their Court hearing and another two or three months for a Court to issue a decision; in the meantime, the conflict is ongoing and the issue remains unresolved.
A Parenting Consultant or Parenting Time Expeditor cannot work with you unless they have been appointed to that role in a court order. Most PCs and PTEs are also going to require the parents to sign a contract and pay a deposit for services. Only when these three steps have been completed (appointment order, signed contract, deposit paid) will the parenting neutral be able to address a pending issue.
One or both parties can bring a parenting issue to the PC or PTE. The neutral will first attempt to mediate a resolution between the parties, usually during an in-person meeting. If agreement between the parties is not possible then the neutral will make a decision on the issue. The decision will always be in writing, although some time-sensitive decisions may need to be communicated verbally or in an email first and then followed up in writing.
The parenting neutral’s decision is binding on the parties as soon as it is issued. If one or both parties do not like the decision, they are free to make a motion to the Court to have the decision of the parenting neutral revised or overturned. However, the neutral’s decision remains in effect unless and until that happens.
Parenting Consultants and Parenting Time Expeditors charge an hourly rate for their services. Family Dispute Resolution Services, LLC uses a sliding fee scale to calculate the hourly rate for each case. Click here for details on our fees.
Your Court Order appointing the parenting neutral should spell out how the fees are allocated between you; if it does not, the fees will be divided equally.
Most neutrals require payment of a deposit for out-of-session time, which includes things like telephone calls, emails, reviewing necessary information and writing decisions. Family Dispute Resolution Services, LLC requires a deposit equal to ten (10) hours of time at the hourly rate for your case.
A parenting neutral is typically appointed for two years, although this can vary depending upon the needs of each case. Many parents choose to continue with their parenting neutral at the end of the initial appointment; others choose to work with someone else.
The goal of most parenting neutrals is help their clients improve the way they resolve disputes so that the parents can do it on their own. Some parents need the assistance of the parenting neutral several times a month. Others may need the neutral’s assistance once every few years. How often and for how long you will need a parenting neutral involved depends upon the complexities of your situation and the level of conflict between the parents.
There is no formal training required to become a parenting neutral. However, Pamela Green brings to her parenting neutral practice 35 years of experience as a divorce and family law attorney and with it unique insight into the dynamics of divorce, separation and unmarried uncoupling.
Pamela Green has completed 40 hours of family mediation training as well as specialized training in Parenting Consulting and Parenting Time Expediting. She regularly attends continuing education programs in alternative dispute resolution and in areas that address the psychological and legal issues inherent in uncoupling.