Mission and Clients
The Family Law Clinic provides free legal services to low-income Coloradans who need help with family law matters such as divorces, issues related to parenting time, and child support. Clinic students work with husbands or wives, and mothers or fathers. The Clinic typically handles cases in Boulder, which is Colorado’s 20th Judicial District.
Clinic students act as the lead attorneys on their cases, and work with their clients from the beginning of a family law case through its conclusion. Students are responsible for gathering information and documents, preparing court filings, appearing at court status conferences, mandatory mediation, and court hearings. The Family Law Clinic helps students to develop good client relationships, to become competent in Colorado family law in particular, and in Colorado civil practice more broadly.
The Family Law Clinic is a yearlong course so that students are able to work on their cases from start to finish. Typically, in the fall semester, students meet their clients, prepare and file initial court pleadings, take the lead at a status conference, and prepare and serve initial court-mandated discovery documents. In some cases, the students may also appear at preliminary court hearings related to parenting time and child support. At such hearings, students may present opening and closing statements and examine witnesses. In the spring semester, typically students prepare for and attend mediation on each of their cases, including preparing mediation statements. For cases that are not resolved at mediation, students take the lead on a final contested hearing. Hearings include preparing a pre-hearing brief, opening and closing statements, and witness examinations.
In addition to casework, students meet weekly in seminar. In the fall, the seminar focuses on broader issues about the attorney-client relationship, and considers law as a vehicle for social change. The seminar also introduces students to exercises in more general civil practice such as negotiations, drafting demand letters and civil complaints. In the spring, each student teaches a week of class on a topic of her or his choosing, related to clinic work or experiences.
Type of Legal Assistance
Clients of the Family Law Clinic are low-income and are referred through other social service programs in the state or through the courts. The Clinic does not generally accept clients through direct intake. Typical clients include unmarried parents who have ended their relationships with their child’s other parent and who have not been able to work out a schedule for time with their child, or for child support. Students interview parents, prepare Petitions for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities, file the Petitions, prepare clients for initial status conferences with the court, and attend conferences. They prepare for preliminary hearings and work with clients to prepare court-mandated financial materials. Ultimately, students prepare for and attend mediations and take matters to the final, contested hearing in the spring.
Another typical client would be a spouse in a divorce matter. Students work with clients to prepare and file responses to Petitions for Dissolution of Marriage. Students determine what kinds of legal questions might be presented by the dissolution, including spousal maintenance (formerly known as alimony) and distribution of assets and debts. If children are involved, students work through issues related to parenting time, parenting decision making, and child support.