Litigating issues relating to custody and parenting time can be time consuming, emotionally exhausting, and expensive. In an effort to avoid this kind of protracted litigation, many parents turn to various alternative dispute resolution options. Two such options are PTEs and PCs. While they may sound similar, there are some important differences that parents should be aware of when considering which of these options is best for their family.
A Parenting Time Expeditor (PTE) is a neutral third party appointed to a case to assist co-parents in resolving parenting time disputes. The Court can appoint a Parenting Time Expeditor at the request of one or both of the parties, or on it’s own, sua sponte, without a request from either party. A PTE’s authority is strictly governed by Minnesota Statute §518.1751, Subd. 1b(a), which provides, “The purpose of a parenting time expeditor is to resolve parenting time disputes by enforcing, interpreting, clarifying, and addressing circumstances not specifically addressed by an existing parenting time order and, if appropriate, to make a determination as to whether the existing parenting time order has been violated.” (Emphasis added). In other words, a PTE is limited in what he or she can do in the sense that he or she can enforce, clarify and interpret an existing order, but cannot invent or implement creative solutions to problems that may arise. Another important thing to understand about the PTE process is that it is confidential. This means that a Parenting Time Expeditor cannot be called to testify as part of any custody or parenting time proceeding, and is not required to make his or her notes available for litigation.
A Parenting Consultant (PC) is also a neutral third party appointed to a case to assist co-parents in resolving parenting time disputes; however, there are some very important differences between a PTE and a PC, the first of which is how the PC is appointed. Unlike a PTE, the Court cannot appoint a PC at the request of one party over the objection of the other party, nor can the Court appoint a PC of its own volition. The only way a PC can be appointed to a case is by the agreement of both parties, and with good reason: Parenting Consultants can have significantly broader authority than Parenting Time Expeditors. While PTEs are limited to the powers granted to them by statute, PCs are creatures of contract. Parties can agree to grant the PC as much or as little authority as they please; however, most Parenting Consultants prefer to operate under the “Perfect PC” appointment order, which can be found here: https://mediationcentermn.org/resources-professionals/. Under the terms of this “Perfect PC” appointment order, in addition to having all of the same authority as a PTE, a Parenting Consultant has the authority “trade” parenting time, award compensatory parenting time, make changes to the parenting time and/or transportation schedule, decide school placement for a child, consult with outside teachers and therapists in order to make decisions, and order one or both of the parties or a child to attend therapy, among other things. Another important difference to note between these two dispute resolution mechanisms is that while the PTE process is confidential, the PC process is not. Parenting Consultants can be called upon to testify in custody and parenting time proceedings, and their notes, communications and decisions can be also be utilized for purposes of litigation.
Every family situation is different, and depending upon each family’s unique dynamics, there may be circumstances where a PC is more appropriate than a PTE, and vice versa. To learn more about which alternative dispute resolution process is right for your family, contact the attorneys at Arnold, Rodman & Kretchmer PLLC to schedule a consultation today.
Written By: Senior Associate Attorney, Kendal K O’Keefe