Even though divorce feels like a private matter, in a lot of cases, there are several professionals that may get involved. These professionals purposefully associate with your case to ensure that you are awarded a just and equitable settlement, as well as a fair evaluation of your family, especially with regard to children.
If you have children and you are going through a divorce, there are a variety of professionals that may get involved. These professionals range from people that you hire independently to make an evaluation of your custody situation, people that make binding decisions with regard to your custody or parenting time, and people that serve as the voice of the children in court – usually when the children are too young to voice their opinion.
To make it easier to understand, here is a breakdown of several of the professionals that get involved in divorce cases when child custody or parenting time is an issue.
Parenting Time Expeditor (PTE) – A parenting time expeditor (PTE) is an individual that may be appointed to your case by a judicial officer. Or, the parties may hire a PTE when they have issues regarding parenting time that they are unable to resolve themselves and desire to avoid the formal court system. A PTE enforces, clarifies, and interprets prior orders regarding parenting time. A PTE’s decisions are binding upon the parties, but may be subject to court review. A parenting time expeditor only has authority to make decisions regarding parenting time. A PTE cannot make decisions regarding custody or child support. A PTE’s fees may be set by the PTE or by the court. For more information, see Minn. Stat. 518.1751.
Guardian ad Litem (GAL) – A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) must be appointed if there is an allegation or a finding of domestic abuse. Or, a judicial officer may appoint a GAL without consent of either party if the judicial officer feels it is necessary. A GAL is defined by statute, and considers the child’s wishes with regard to parenting time and custody issues. A GAL’s role in the court system is varied, extensive, and can be quite persuasive. A GAL becomes a party if the case is in juvenile court, if a child becomes a party, or may become a party if necessary in family court. Unlike a PTE, a GAL does not have decision making powers, but may issue a report for the judicial officer’s review which includes recommendations, observations, and notes. A GAL’s recommendations are based on the best interests of the child. A GAL’s fees may be set by the GAL or the Court. For more information, visit Minn. Stat. 518.165.
Custody Evaluator – A custody evaluator is either requested by both parties or assigned by a judicial officer to conduct a custody evaluation. A custody evaluator investigates the family and makes recommendations regarding custody and parenting time – in other words, he or she evaluates the case and gives recommendations on how custody should be allotted between the parties. The custody evaluator may interview children and consider the child’s or children’s preference with regard to custody. A custody evaluation is not a quick process. It usually takes approximately 3-4 months. A custody evaluation is most often used when there is a question as to a parent’s abilities to parent, or emotional or physical limitations that one or both parties may have. A custody evaluator’s fees are set by the custody evaluator, or by the court. For more information, see Minn. Stat. 518.167.
Parenting Consultant – A parenting consultant may be appointed by a judicial officer, but only with consent of both parties. In other words, a judicial officer cannot require that a parenting consultant be assigned– it is something that both parties need to agree to. A parenting consultant is the most varied role of any professional mentioned thus far, and his or her role is defined by the parenting consultant himself, the parties, or the court order. Typically, a parenting consultant will educate the parties regarding a child’s developmental issues, advise the parties on communication issues, and facilitate discussion between the parties with regard to parenting issues. Perhaps most importantly, a parenting consultant has the ability to make decisions regarding any parenting issue, in addition to parenting time scheduling issues. However, a parenting consultant cannot change the label of legal or physical custody. A parenting consultant’s fees are set by the individual parenting consultant. For more information, see Minn. R. Gen Prac. 114.
At Clausen & Hassan, our Minnesota Divorce Lawyers have experience working with various family law professionals. If you have questions about your specific situation, contact us today for your free consultation.