The Colorado Supreme Court has approved a new rule that allows licensed nonlawyer paraprofessionals to perform limited legal work in some divorce and child-custody matters.
Paraprofessionals will be allowed to complete and file standard pleadings, represent their clients in mediation, accompany their clients to court and answer a court’s factual questions, according to a March 27 press release. But they may not present oral arguments or examine witnesses in a hearing.
The program is intended to make legal representation more widely available and more affordable in certain domestic relations matters, according to the press release. The release cited a statistic: In fiscal year 2022, 74% of parties involved in divorce and parenting responsibility cases did not have legal representation.
To obtain a license, the would-be paraprofessional will have to pass a written licensed legal paraprofessionals exam, submit to a character and fitness review, pass an ethics class, and pass a professional conduct exam. They will also have to complete 1,500 hours of law-related practical experience, including 500 hours of experience in Colorado family law. A discipline process will be similar to the one for lawyers.
Other states with active licensing programs for paraprofessionals are Arizona, Minnesota, Oregon, and Utah, according to the press release. Washington also created a program but has voted to sunset it. California has considered a program, but lawmakers halted work on the proposal.