What does a Parenting Consultant do?

Ashley E. Bloch, Esquire and Cortney E. Whitehouse, Esquire, Bloch & Whitehouse, P.A., 8120 Penn Avenue South, Bloomington, Minnesota, 55431, (952) 224-9977, ashley@blochandwhitehouse.com, http://www.mndivorcefamilylaw.com.

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Minnesota makes the services of both Parenting Consultant and Parenting Time Expeditors (PTE) available to families going through a divorce or child custody dispute. It can be easy to confuse these two similar terms. This article discusses the role, limitations, and advantages of a Minnesota parenting consultant. You can learn more here about Minnesota parenting time expeditors.

The role of Parenting Consultant, or PC, is not created by Minnesota statute, but rather by Minnesota Court Rule 114.02(a)(10). This rule states simply that “parties may by agreement create an ADR process.” The use of a Parenting Consultant is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), an alternative to going to court which many families appreciate.

What is a Parenting Consultant, and How Do I Get One?

A Parenting Consultant is someone who works with families, typically on an ongoing basis, to resolve disputes over parenting time issues, major decisions regarding the children (such as when parents with joint legal custody disagree about which school a child should be enrolled in), and other parenting conflicts that arise. Because of the longer-term nature of a PC’s work, much of that work takes place after the divorce decree is issued.

Unlike with a PTE, a Parenting Consultant cannot be appointed in your case unless you and your child’s other parent agree to use one. You and the other parent stipulate to use a PC, and the court enters an order to this effect. The scope of the PC’s authority depends primarily on what you and your ex agree to. Some parents want the PC to address certain narrow issues; others want the ability to turn to the PC for a wide variety of matters that may arise, including financial ones. You and your ex will sign a private contract with the PC that outlines the scope of authority and whether you want the PC’s decisions to be binding. Many families opt to have the PC’s decisions be binding, but with the opportunity for review by the court.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Minnesota Parenting Consultant

As with the use of many types of alternative dispute resolution, the use of a Parenting Consultant can offer significant savings in both time and money. Although PCs are professionals paid by the parties to a case, their services are usually considerably less expensive than paying two attorneys to file a motion and argue it in court.

Perhaps even more important to some families is the savings of time in dealing with parenting disputes. In contrast to the weeks or months it may take to file a motion and have it heard and decided, a dispute handled by a parenting consultant may be resolved in days. For time sensitive issues, this can be critical.

Another benefit to using a Parenting Consultant is that a PC typically has access to a broader scope of information on which to base a decision than a judge does. A Parenting Consultant can speak at length with the parties and with anyone else who may have relevant information, although in some cases the parties may have to authorize the release of information or records in writing. This ability offers the consultant more of a panoramic view of a situation, as opposed to the snapshot a judge may get.

Many Parenting Consultants are mental health professionals, not attorneys. This can be something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, mental health professionals may have a better sense of family dynamics than most attorneys. On the other hand, a non-attorney PC may not have the depth of knowledge of family law that is needed in certain situations. When choosing a PC, therefore, it’s best to consider what you want from your consultant, and whether you’re comfortable with a prospective PC, regardless of his or her professional background.

One potential disadvantage of using a Parenting Consultant is that a PC may be subpoenaed or called as a witness in a court proceeding, unless otherwise specified in the court order or contract. In other words, what you tell your PC may someday be repeated in open court.

If you would like to learn more about whether using a Minnesota Parenting Consultant could benefit your family, we invite you to contact Bloch and Whitehouse at (952)224-9977 to schedule a consultation.

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