Minnesota courts often appoint a parenting time expeditor during or after a divorce to help parties resolve parenting time disputes. This appointment may be at the request of one or both parties, or on the court's own motion. While not appropriate in all circumstances, the use of a parenting time expeditor can be very helpful to parents, saving time and legal fees, and avoiding the stress of waiting for a judge to render a decision on parenting time questions. For many disputes, time is of the essence, and parties cannot wait weeks or months for a judge's decision.
A parenting time expeditor is a neutral party who resolves parenting time disagreements by "enforcing, interpreting, clarifying, and addressing circumstances not specifically addressed by an existing parenting time order." Such disputes commonly include a complaint that one parent is interfering with the other's parenting time, concerns of one parent that the other parent is not spending scheduled parenting time with the child, or one parent's fear that upcoming parenting time will be denied by the other. If a judge has ordered "reasonable parenting time," the parenting time expeditor can help the parties work out a specific schedule.
Parenting time expeditors can be appointed to resolve a single issue, or to be available to assist the parties on an ongoing basis. While parenting time expeditors interpret orders regarding parenting time, they can't make a decision that conflicts with an existing order unless the parties mutually agree to the decision.
Within five days of appointment or of being notified of a dispute, the parenting time expeditor will meet with the parties, either separately or together, and try to resolve the issue. If necessary, the conference can even take place via telephone. If the parties can't reach agreement with the expeditor's help, the parenting time expeditor will make a decision regarding the dispute within five days of gathering the necessary information. Because of this timetable, disputes are resolved much more quickly than they would be in court, and for much less expense, because lawyers don't have to draft and argue motions. The parenting time expeditor's decision becomes part of the court record, but the discussions, research and reasoning that led up to it are not disclosed.
Not just anyone can serve as a parenting time expeditor. Parenting time expeditors must undergo family mediation training as well as training in domestic abuse issues. In addition to the required training, Lisa Banas is an experienced family law attorney with a background in social work. She is familiar with the language of divorce decrees and custody orders, and her training has given her the insight necessary to resolve disputes in a way that is most helpful to the families she serves.