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Coloradans will soon have access to more affordable family law support

The first licensed legal paraprofessional (LLP) candidates will take their exam on April 30.
Colorado licensed legal paraprofessional
Posted at 10:03 PM, Apr 25, 2024

DENVER — In a few months, Coloradans will have access to more affordable family law support.

Paralegals from across the state will be in Denver to take the new licensed legal paraprofessional (LLP) exam on April 30.

Licensed legal paraprofessionals can practice in certain family law matters, such as divorce, custody, and protection orders. They won't be able to examine witnesses in court or complete other more complex legal work.

Last year, the Colorado Supreme Court approved the program to make access to legal help more affordable for people with family law issues.

In addition to offering a low-cost legal option for Coloradans, the Colorado Supreme Court hopes LLPs can help relieve some pressure from already busy family law courts. More than 70 percent of parties in Colorado's family law system were unrepresented in 2022.

"The courts are overwhelmed by the numbers of people that come into their courts with no direction, and LLPs will be able to sit beside them, will be able to help them complete these documents and these forms, and really help them through the process," said Toni-Anne Nunez, director of access to justice for the Colorado and Denver Bar Associations.

Some family lawyers believe LLPs could reduce their clientele. Nunez, however, said LLPs would be a supplement to the practice.

"They're not looking to take any business from anyone," said Nunez. "They're looking to help people that generally probably wouldn't have gone and hired an attorney in the first place."

Several other states, including Arizona, Oregon, and Minnesota, have introduced similar programs. Washington began to wind down its program in 2020, citing high costs and low interest.

Supporters of Colorado's program expect LLPs to cost a fraction of the price of an attorney. Attorney Maha Kamal, an original member of the Paraprofessionals and Legal Services Committee (PALS), said LLPs in Utah generally charge between $50 and $125 per hour.

"We also have to be mindful of the fact that Utah has a different cost of living," said Kamal. "But I think we anticipate the same here."

Melissa Simonton, who has been a paralegal for more than 30 years, believes becoming an LLP will give her a chance to offer more help to clients during the often emotional family law process.

"People who are in this divorce process are just — they're just so lost," she said. "I think about them and their family and what they're going through."

Simonton is one of about 70 LLP candidates studying to take the exam next week. Meghan Dill Meinzer is also burning the midnight oil preparing for the big test.

"It's a really high-stakes field," said Dill Meinzer. "I try to work on it before and after work, and I am laser-focused."

The first Colorado LLPs will be sworn in on June 20.

Coloradans will soon have access to more affordable family law support

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