Parenting Time Expeditors

Parenting time expeditors are often appointed by judges, or agreed upon by the parents, to resolve parenting time disputes that arise after entry of a divorce or custody decree. The authority of an expeditor is limited to making decisions that are intended to serve as an "interpretation" of the existing order.

The court has established a visitation schedule for you and your ex, but he or she refuses to adhere to the schedule and wants to change it on a weekly basis. You are wondering whether you have an options or rights when it comes to scheduling.

What can you do?

The parenting time expeditor (PTE) acts as a mediator to resolve disputes between the parents with respect to time-sharing. The PTE interprets, clarifies, enforces and addresses situations that are not specifically addressed in the court order. The PTE also decides whether a parent violated a court order regarding parenting time. In such a dispute, either parent can claim that the other interfered with parenting time or failed to spend adequate time with the child. Either party has the right to request a PTE, but the court can also assign one at their discretion.

Exceptions to PTE Requests

There are a number scenarios in which the court may not obligate the parties to utilize a parenting time expeditor, including:

1.    Either parent alleges domestic violence by the other person.
2.    The court believes that one of the parents has been threatened or has been subject to domestic violence by his or her ex.
3.    The parents cannot afford to pay for the PTE.

Notwithstanding these exceptions, the court might allow or require the involvement of a PTE under certain circumstances. Your Minnesota divorce attorney can help you understand your rights and obligations.

How Much Authority Does a PTE Have?

A PTE or mediator is a neutral third party charged with attempting to work out negotiations between the parents, so that they come to an agreement. If the parties do not agree, the PTE has the authority to make decisions about how time-sharing will work. The PTE will schedule a meeting, possibly via a phone conference, and make determinations, even when one party chooses not to participate in the process.

The PTE might affect parenting time, but there are limits. He or she can interpret the original court order but not change it. As such, the PTE might award compensatory parenting time and might direct the non-compliant party to reimburse the other person for legal fees.

Under Minnesota law, the parties, or the court, can seek the appointment of a parenting time expeditor as part of a divorce or paternity proceeding. Parenting time expeditors can save the parties time and money by keeping parenting time disputes out of the court system entirely. No attorney to pay. No motion filing fee to pay. No two-month waiting period to speak with a judge.

A parenting time expeditor works to resolve parenting time disputes by interpreting and enforcing an existing court order. Some parties never use the expeditor, even if appointed, because no conflicts arise. Others use them once. Still others…quite regularly.

Expeditors are supposed to first mediate disputes between parents. If the parents are unable to come to an agreement on their own, the expeditor issues a written decision.

Once a dispute is brought to the attention of the expeditor, they expeditor will meet with the parties in a relatively short period of time – often the same day, by telephone.

If a decision is required of the expeditor, it must be consistent with the existing order. In other words, an expeditor does not have the authority to create new schedules or conditions of visitation.

The decision can include an award of compensatory parenting time, along with an award of attorney’s fees and costs. The opinion must be written and mailed to each party, and is subject to review by the district court if either party requests a hearing. Usually the expeditor’s decision is subject to “appeal” to the district court for a period of 14 days. Thereafter, the right to have the matter addressed by the court is extinguished.

Either party can move the court to remove the parenting time expeditor, but must show “good cause” for doing so. Such a feat can be rather difficult, but tempting to those who are not happy with the decisions of the expeditor.