A Parenting Consultant (PC) has similar functions as a Parenting Time Expeditor (which we discussed in a previous post). Parenting Consultants however, are not authorized by Minnesota Statute and are created solely on the basis of a contract. Since there is no statutory authority for appointment of a parenting consultant, you cannot be court ordered to have one assigned to your case. Parenting consultants can only be court ordered by the agreement of both parties.
Since a parenting consultant is created by contract, they essentially can be appointed for whatever purpose that they are needed for. Often time a parenting consultant is appointed with the same enumerated powers that a parenting time expeditor has but in addition they are granted the authority to make permanent schedule changes. One situation where having a parenting consultant in place to increase or decrease parenting time could be where a parent has issues with chemical dependency. A parenting consultant can assist the parties in monitoring sobriety and increase parenting time if sobriety continues, or decrease time if there is a relapse. Another example where a parenting consultant that has authority to increase time can be beneficial is with young children. Parents may agree that a limited parenting time schedule is appropriate when their child is an infant. However, a schedule for a 3 month old baby is not appropriate once the child gets older. A parenting consultant can assist parents in increasing parenting time if they do not agree.
Parenting consultants may also be given the authority to decide legal custody decisions when joint legal custodians cannot agree. This can be helpful if you are struggling with school choice for your children, or if you cannot agree on whether or not your child needs to get braces. A parenting consultant may also be of value in deciding which extra-curricular activities that children participate in, and who pays for them.
Even though the issues decided by parenting consultants could be simply brought before the court in a motion, there are many advantage of using a parenting consultant versus going through the traditional court route. Depending on the county that your case is venued in, motion hearing dates could be booked out as much as three months. Even when you do get to your hearing date, your judicial officer statutorily has 90 days before they have to issue a decision. You could be waiting more than 6 months to get your dispute resolved. Judicial officers are limited in the amount of evidence that they can consider. They can’t simply call up witnesses, teachers, or counselors and talk to them on the telephone whereas a parenting consultant can.
If you think that your case would benefit from having a parenting consultant, contact our office for a consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys. We have drafted many parenting consultant contracts and can assist you in choosing what authority to grant the parenting consultant. Our attorneys also have the experience necessary to recommend the right parenting consultant for your case.
Social Early Neutral Evaluation SENE or Custody and Parenting Time Evaluation CPENE (the name varies depending on which county you are participating in) is a form of evaluative alternative dispute resolution where you are given a neutral opinion of the strengths and weaknesses of your case. SENE/CPENE is available in many counties throughout Minnesota. The process is usually commenced at the beginning of a divorce or custody case. The intent is to get parties talking about settlement of their case at the beginning of the process before people get entrenched in their positions. However, SENE/CPENE can be effective at reaching a resolution at any point during the case.
The parties participate in the process with their attorneys present. Two evaluators, a male and female are selected or assigned (depending on which county you are participating in) to the case. You should plan to spend at least three hours at the SENE/CPENE. The process begins with the evaluators explaining the confidentiality requirements and the way that the evaluation will be conducted. The person who is the Petitioner in the court action will begin by telling the evaluators what they are seeking for custody and parenting time and why they believe their proposal is in the best interests of the children. The evaluators and the Petitioner’s attorney may ask the Petitioner questions through out their presentation, but the Respondent’s attorney is not permitted to ask any questions of the Petitioner. Following the Petitioner’s presentation, the Respondent is asked to tell the evaluator what they are seeking for custody and parenting time. The challenge for the Respondent is to not be tempted to simply respond to the Petitioner’s presentation. Again, the Respondent’s attorney and the evaluators will be allowed to ask the Respondent questions. Next the evaluators allow each side one turn at rebuttal.
After all presentations are made to the evaluators, they will leave the room and discuss their impressions of the case. This usually takes 15 to 20 minutes. The evaluators then reconvene the session and give you feedback regarding what they think the likely outcome of the case will be. At this point you can ask the evaluators questions about their recommendations and get any necessary clarification.
Following the receipt of the recommendations, you will then have the opportunity to discuss with your attorney privately your thoughts about what has been recommended. You have three options at this point. You can agree with the recommendations. You can agree with some of the recommendations and propose changes to some portions. Finally, you can disagree completely and walk away from the discussions.
After you have spoken with your attorney you again reconvene with the group and discuss each parties position regarding the recommendations. At this point, usually you begin negotiating the terms of the settlement agreement. Sometimes there will be a full agreement on all issues. Other times, there may simply be a temporary agreement or a partial agreement.
Having a skilled attorney represent you through the SENE/CPENE process is crucial. Our attorneys have represented numerous clients throughout the SENE/CPENE process. They know how the process works and how to effectively prepare you and represent you through the process. Call our office for a family law consultation today.
Sometimes there are more parties in a Minnesota child custody case than just the mother and the father. Sometimes the court will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) to represent the interests of the child and advise the court with respect to custody and parenting time. Sometimes this appointment is mandatory, such as in cases where the court has reason to believe the child is a victim of domestic abuse or neglect, and sometimes this appointment is only permissive, meaning the court can, but does not have to, appoint a GAL. Due to budget constraints, permissive appointments are becoming less available. Obviously, some counties have more resources available than others.
Pursuant to Minnesota statute §518.165, subd.2a, when a GAL is appointed to a Minnesota family law case, the GAL has the following responsibilities:
1) to conduct an independent investigation to determine the facts relevant to the situation of the child and the family; this investigation must include:
- reviewing relevant documents;
- meeting with and observing the child in the home setting and considering the child’s wishes, as appropriate; and
- interviewing parents, caregivers, and others with knowledge relevant to the case.
2) to advocate for the child’s best interests and for appropriate community services;
3) to maintain confidentiality of information;
4) to monitor the child’s best interests throughout the proceedings; and
5) to present written reports on the child’s best interests.
The information gathered and presented to the court by the GAL is very persuasive. The court is likely to order something substantially the same or similar to the recommendations of the guardian. To discuss whether appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem might be appropriate in your case, our Minnesota family lawyers can offer you a consultation.
Alimony, also referred to as spousal maintenance, is a term to describe the legal obligation of a spouse to provide financial support to the other spouse after separation or divorce.
The alimony amount, how it should be paid, and for how long are up to the judge hearing your case. One of the main reasons for alimony is to ensure the same standard of life can continue for both parties after a divorce or separation.
For more information please visit our Alimony page. We at Wolf, Rohr, Gemberling and Allen P.A. have successfully worked with clients during divorce and separation proceedings in Minnesota. Contact us today for a consultation regarding your family law dispute.
We would like to provide you with definitions of common legal terms that you may hear during a family law dispute. You will be able to reference all of the articles by clicking on the ‘Legal Term Glossary’ category of the blog. The MN family law attorney’s at Wolf, Rohr, Gemberling and Allen P.A. are here to help you. Please contact us with any additional legal questions.
Undergoing a family law proceeding is hard enough. And then there’s the legal lingo.
What’s the difference between a “legal separation” and a “divorce”?
What’s the difference between “joint legal custody” and “joint physical custody”?
At a time when you already have a lot to think about, trying to understand complicated legal terms is the last thing you want to do.
Continue reading “Understanding Legal Terms”