Despite the best intentions of the parties, and the best efforts of all involved, disagreements regarding parenting time can arise during, or after, divorce. Minnesota law allows for the appointment of a neutral Parenting Time Expeditor (“PTE”) to assist with such parenting-time disputes between parties. A PTE (or team of two PTEs) can be appointed based upon either party’s request or the stipulation of the parties, or can be ordered by the court on its own volition. There are, however, a few circumstances in which the use of a PTE cannot be required, including:
· One of the parties claims to have been abused by the other party;
· The court believes that one of the parties has been abused or threatened by the other party; or
· One or both of the parties is unable to pay the PTE fees.
A primary advantage of having a PTE is that some disputes regarding parenting time can be resolved far more quickly and cheaply than if the parties had to go to court. Once a dispute has been presented to the PTE, he or she meets with the parties, either together or separately, in person or by telephone, and attempts to mediate an agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached, the PTE then issues a written decision, which is binding unless modified by the court. If a party disagrees with the decision, he or she can ask to have the matter addressed by the district court.
PTEs cannot alter existing parenting time orders; rather, they are only allowed to resolve disputes by “enforcing, interpreting, clarifying, or addressing circumstances not specifically addressed” by parenting-time orders. For example, a PTE can award compensatory time for parenting time that was denied by the other parent, or can resolve a situation in which both parents want vacation with the children during the same week. The PTE cannot, however, modify the parenting-time schedule or address issues not involving parenting time, such as school choice. In this way, they differ from Parenting Consultants (“PCs”) – to be discussed in a future post – who can modify parenting-time orders in many ways.
To discuss parenting time, or any family law matter, call Kruse Family Law at 612.231.9865, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.