Creating a parenting time schedule is an emotional and stressful undertaking for most parents. In Minnesota, visitation is an outdated term which implies one parent is more important than another. Minnesota encourages a parenting time arrangement that supports and facilitates each parent’s continuing relationship with the children. Therefore, the time that each parent spends with and caring for the children is now referred to as parenting time.

Some parents continue in conflict long after their divorce and/or parenting order is final. Sometimes the changing needs of the parents and/or children require adjustments to existing orders. When these situations exist, and parents are unable to reach their own agreements, the court may appoint a third-party neutral to make decisions that are in the best interest of the minor children. There are two such neutral positions in Minnesota: a Parenting Time Expeditor and a Parenting Consultant.

As the title suggests, a Parenting Time Expeditor (PTE) is tasked with addressing issues relating to parenting time only. A PTE may interpret, clarify and enforce court ordered parenting time arrangements. PTEs have a limited scope of authority, must make decisions which are consistent with court orders and may be appointed by the Court over the objection of either party. When resolving disputes, the PTE will confer with both parents and may also consult with third-parties (such as therapists and educators). PTE decisions are legally binding upon both parents.

If the conflicts between parents go beyond parenting time disputes, a Parenting Consultant (PC) may be needed to address the broader scope of issues. PC’s have a broad scope of authority which is defined by court order and often includes: parenting time, transportation, extra-curricular activities, holiday and vacation schedules,communication protocols,and issues relating to education, healthcare and religion. Like a PTE, the PC may confer with outside sources and first attempts to facilitate an agreement between the parents before rendering legally binding decisions.

The length of time a PTE or PC works with parties is defined in the Court Order. Two years is a common length of term, though it may be until the children emancipate, or as long as the PTE/PC is willing to serve.

It is important to note that engaging a PTE or PC does NOT mean that parents give up all parental decision making authority. Before a PTE or PC makes a decision, he or she will work with the parents to facilitate an agreement that is in the children’s best interests. Only after it is determined that a facilitated agreement is not possible, is a decision rendered.

Co-parenting after a divorce or break-up is often difficult. PTEs and PCs work with parents to hold them accountable to their court ordered parenting arrangements and coach them to be effective and low-conflict parenting partners.As time goes by the frequency and intensity of parenting conflicts may be reduced and ideally eliminate the need for ongoing third-party and/or court involvement.