A Divorce Decree or a Paternity Order will usually have a clause for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in the event a future dispute arises. This means that if there is a dispute regarding custody and/or parenting time, the parties must first attempt to resolve it through this Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism before returning to court. There are several types of ADR mechanisms. A Mediator, Parenting Time Expeditor, Parenting Consultant or an Arbitrator are all examples of neutrals who perform their roles under the umbrella of the ADR process.
The Minnesota Parenting Time Expediting process is governed by Minnesota Statute 518.1751. This process allows the parties to resolve parenting time disputes that may occur after a parenting time order is issued by the Court. A Parenting Time Expeditor (PTE) is a neutral who resolves parenting time disputes by “enforcing, interpreting, clarifying, and addressing circumstances not specifically addressed by an existing parenting time order.”
The PTE process
A dispute sometimes arises under an existing parenting time order. Instead of returning to Court, the parties may utilize the services of a PTE. Once contacted, the PTE can attempt to mediate the case, and if mediation is successful, the dispute is resolved. However, if the dispute is not resolved, the PTE has the authority under Minnesota Statutes to make a binding decision that would interpret, enforce or clarify the parenting time dispute(s). This has the practical impact of providing closure and a much quicker end result than requesting relief from the Court. The PTE process is confidential. The PTE cannot testify in Court as to what transpired during the discussions. The PTE also cannot reveal his or her impressions or who said what during the PTE process. Only the decision of the PTE can be made part of the Court file as it is a binding decision.
The Parenting Time Expediting process process differs from Mediation in one major respect. A Mediator may facilitate an agreement but does not have the authority to make a binding decision. On the other hand, a Parenting Time Expeditor has the explicit authority to render a binding decision regarding the parenting time dispute.
Challenging the PTE’s decision
If either party disagrees with the PTE’s decision, he or she has the option of appealing the PTE’s decision by seeking an Order from the district court that would reverse the PTE’s decision. The process of challenging the PTE’s decision is usually stated in either the contract of the PTE and/or the Court Order appointing the PTE.
Parenting Time Expeditor Fees
Typically, the fees of the PTE are equally divided between the parties. However, the Court does have the authority to allocate fees in a disproportionate manner depending upon the financial resources of the parties. In addition, the PTE usually has the authority to allocate fees disproportionally provided that this authority is explicitly outlined in the parenting time order.
Selecting a Parenting Time Expeditor
If you have a provision in your Decree or a parenting time order that appoints a PTE, you must do your due diligence before selecting a Parenting Time Expeditor. It is always a good idea to consult with your attorney regarding the choice of a Parenting Time Expeditor.