DENVER — It can be tough to navigate a divorce or a child custody issue without legal help. Attorneys, on the other hand, can be too expensive for some Coloradans.
That's why the Colorado Supreme Court recently approved a program intended to make access to legal help more affordable for people with family law issues.
Licensed Legal Professionals (LLPs) will be able to practice in certain types of family law matters, such as divorce, custody, and protection orders.
“Essentially a nurse practitioner role," said retired District Judge Angela Arkin.
Arkin is on the Paraprofessionals and Legal Services Supreme (PALS) Court Advisory Committee, which brought the LLP program to life.
She said last year, 74% of people in family law cases represented themselves.
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.
"People with legal advice, when they come to court, are much better prepared, and it requires a lot less judicial time to assist them in moving forward in their lives," she said.
According to the Colorado Supreme Court, LLP applicants have to “meet certain educational requirements and have completed 1,500 hours of substantive law-related practical experience, including 500 hours of experience in Colorado family law,” within the last three years. Exceptions can apply.
"The Community College of Denver really recognizes the importance of access to justice as an equity issue," said Karey James, Education Co-Chair of the PALS Supreme Court Advisory Committee.
James is helping structure the legal education that some applicants will have to go through to become an LLP.
All qualified applicants must take a family law exam, and an ethics exam.
"In this coming fall semester, starting in September, we're going to launch the LLP ethics course online as non-credit so that anybody who wants to take the class can register and take the course," said James.
Additional education will be implemented after that. Click here to learn more about it.
The first LLP exam is planned for April of 2024. The first Colorado LLPs could receive their licenses as soon as July 2024.