If you are involved in a “high conflict" parenting situation, be it a divorce, a custody proceeding or a post decree issue the services of a parenting consultant or a parenting time expeditor may be appropriate to assist with on-going conflict in the case. What is the difference between a parenting consultant and a parenting time expeditor and which is the best choice for your case?

A parenting time expeditor or PTE is a neutral person appointed to mediate and, if necessary, arbitrate parenting time disputes. One of the main differences between a PTE and a consultant is that a PTE’s authority is based in the Minnesota Statues. If the PTE cannot resolve the parenting time dispute, then the PTE is mandated, by statute, to make a decision resolving the dispute. A court may appoint a PTE over objection of the parties, unless there has been domestic abuse or the parties cannot pay a PTE. One of the notable differences between a PTE and a consultant is that a PTE’s authority may not exceed the authority as defined by statute. So, a PTE may interpret, enforce and clarify parenting time issues that may not be clear in a court order or may be causing conflict. The PTE can make a decision for the parties if they cannot agree and a PTE’s decision is binding on the parties. A PTE cannot be called as a witness in court.

On the other hand, a parenting consultant or OC is not created by statute but rather is a creature of contract. The parties, usually with the assistance of their attorney, agree to use a PC as their form of alternative dispute resolution. A Court may NOT order a PC unless the parties expressly agree. The scope of the PC’s authority is determined by the parties and may be broader in scope than the authority granted to the PTE. A PC may address parenting issues and make decisions about parenting time and any other parenting issue. A PC may require a party to attend therapy or anger management. A PC may consider financial issues relating to the children. A PC decision is also binding but some contracts allow for an appeal of a PC’s decision to district court. A PC may be called as a witness in Court.

Lawyers and non-lawyers function in the roles of parenting consultant and parenting time expeditor. Parenting consultants and expeditors are also social workers, therapists, psychologists and mental health workers. The background and qualifications of parenting consultants and expeditors vary so it’s a good idea to discuss pros and cons of each professional with your attorney before deciding on who to use.