The role of a Parenting Consultant is to resolve parenting and access time disputes by enforcing, interpreting, clarifying and addressing circumstances not specifically addressed by the parenting time provisions of the dissolution decree or child custody order. A Parenting Consultant is retained by the parents, usually under terms stipulated to in a divorce decree or custody order, making the appointment of a parenting consultant an extension of the court’s authority to make decisions and grant relief in parenting disputes, including modifying a parenting time schedule, or requiring a parent to perform acts that will protect the minor child from physical or emotional harm. See Minn. Stat. §§ 518.131, subd. 1; Minn. Stat. 518.175, subd. 5.

While there is presently no statute that describes the role of a Parenting Consultant, the Parenting Consultant has “broader powers than [those] set forth in Minn. Stat. § 518.1751,” – the statute that defines the duties and powers of a parenting-time expeditor. The parenting-time expeditor’s role is limited to enforcing, interpreting and clarifying terms of the custody order or divorce decree, and addressing circumstances not addressed by the order or decree, the expeditor does not have authority to make changes to a parenting access schedule or require the parent to perform acts outside of the parenting access schedule (such as participate in therapy or refrain from certain acts deemed inconsistent with the child’s welfare). A Parenting Consultant can make these changes and requirements, and is entitled to immunity for damages arising from acts performed during the exercise of his or her authority. A recent Court of Appeals decision affirmed this immunity for Parenting Consultants; barring any claim for negligence or breach of contract where a parent disputed the decision of the Consultant, claiming the decision adversely affected the parent’s access time. VanGelder v. Johnson, (Minn. Ct. App. 2012).

When appointed to a custody and/or parenting time matter, and upon making a decision relative to custody or parenting time, the decision of the Consultant is binding on the parties, and is enforceable unless successfully appealed by decision of the district court.

Parents involved in a divorce, a child custody or a parenting access time dispute, should be made aware of the role of a Parenting Consultant. The attorneys at Clausen & Hassan, LLC have experience and knowledge in working with Parenting Consultants, and are happy to answer any questions relative to this topic, or any other topics relative to Family Law.

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