Colorado Bar Association
Colorado Bar Association
Family Law Section Newsletter


Letter from the Chair — The Benefits of Membership

I have heard practitioners ask from time to time, why be a member of the Family Law Section? I am always glad to hear the question in order to share the fantastic benefits of membership in the Family Law Section:

  • As a member, you are part of one of the largest sections of the Colorado Bar Association…with over 1000 members across Colorado. What does that mean and why should you care? The answer is that membership is also a pathway to information…
  • As a member you have access to the Family Law Section ‘Members Only’ website. On the website, you will find members of the Executive Council are liaisons to every judicial district in Colorado and share information specific to each district. If you normally practice in Huerfano County but have a metro area case — the Section website provides important information for all judicial districts and is updated frequently to help you navigate the protocol and procedure for each district.
  • Knowledge is power and the more minds at work, the better! As a member, you are automatically enrolled in the Family Law Section Listserve which provides practitioners with invaluable opportunities to pick the brains of able-minded and seasoned attorneys in this practice area! Whether you have a question on a particular judicial district’s CMO or are grappling with an evidentiary presentation for a §14-10-129(4) hearing, the Section Listserve provides an active community at the touch of your keyboard to help discuss, answer and sometimes debate current legal issues and trends in Colorado.
  • Reduced rates on relevant family law CLE’s in Colorado such as the Spring and Fall Family Law Updates, the Family Law Institute, the Evidence Practicum, the monthly lunches, etc. Maybe you didn’t know that the officers of the Family Law Section executive council engage in brown bag lunches with each metro area judicial district’s domestic bench and as many outlying districts as we can reach each year. How does that help you? The information we receive from the judicial districts speaks to their current assignments, procedures and protocols. The minutes from these lunches and information are posted on the website as well – again providing up-to-date practice information. In addition, a large portion of the education you see at family law CLE’s results from concerns, ideas and topics that arise during these luncheons, providing for a higher quality of CLE programming to better assist and enhance your practice.
  • As a member, you also have access to the Expert Directory which is updated every few years and is an invaluable resource for locating well-respected and knowledge experts in all family law related fields such as forensic accountants, child therapists, mediators, etc.
  • Finally, the Executive Council has an extremely involved and engaged legislative committee that is on the frontlines of groundbreaking legislation. The committee thoughtfully considers the impact of pending legislation on the practice of family law. In addition, the legislative committee is often involved with drafting and revising existing legislation in order to meet the evolving needs of litigants.

This list does not even include the comradery that exists within the family law practice. So really the question is, why would you practice family law and not be a member of the Family Law Section? Take advantage of the benefits of membership and encourage other practitioners to join the section as well!

Jennifer Feingold

Case Law Update — January and February 2018

By Anne Gill

Dependency and Neglect

D&N cases:

People in Interest of M.R.M., 2018 COA 10
The mother filed her appeal after the trial court dismissed the dependency and neglect proceeding. The Court of Appeals held that the final order triggering mother’s appeal was the earlier order allocating parental responsibility. As a result, her appeal was late and was dismissed with prejudice as untimely.

The Court rejected mother’s argument that the order on allocation of parental rights did not finally resolve the case. The Court reviewed § 19-1-104 (6) and concluded that it directed that an order allocating parental rights “shall be filed” with the district court where the child shall reside and that the district court then had jurisdiction. The fact that the juvenile court never resolved an issue of presumptive paternity did not negate the finality of the allocation of parental rights.

People in Interest of C.W.B., Jr., 2018 CO 8
The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that foster parents have standing to appeal from an order denying termination of parental rights. It relied on § 19-3-507 (5)(a), as not automatically conferring standing when neither the Department nor the GAL sought review of the order denying termination. It held that because the GAL is statutorily required to advocate for the child’s best interests there is no need to confer standing on the foster parents.

ICWA cases:

ICWA is designed to protect and preserve Indian tribes and Indian children who are members or are eligible for membership in a tribe. The tribes have an interest that is equivalent to but distinct from parental interests. Section 19-1-126 (1) (a) requires the petitioner to make continuing inquiry to determine whether a child who is the subject of the proceedings is an Indian child. To fulfill that duty, the Department must investigate the child’s status early in the case and provide notice to each tribe in which the child may have membership.

The 2015 Guidelines of the Bureau of Indian Affairs were repealed and replaced in 2016. They include best practices which reiterate that the inquiry must be repeated each new child-custody proceeding. The notice has detailed requirements and must include a copy of the petition, complaint or other documents initiating the proceeding.

Here, the mother stated she believed both she and the father had Native American blood but because she was adopted she lacked much information. The court did not inquire about her or father’s heritage. The Court held that mother’s lack of information did not relieve the Department of its duty to inquire and provide notice. The case was remanded for the Department to provide notice to identified tribes and for such further proceedings as were necessary thereafter.

People in Interest of L.H., 2018 COA 27
In this ICWA case, the mother identified her ancestry as Navajo and the Department sent notice only to the Navajo Nation. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has designated the Colorado River Indian Tribes as historically affiliated with the Navajo. The Court held that under the circumstances presented, the Department was required to send notice of the proceedings to the Colorado River Indian Tribes. The Court noted that the Colorado River Indian Tribes, according to BIA, consist of four tribes but have a single agent for service of process. Because mother did not specify the Navajo Nation, notice should be sent to the historically affiliated tribes. The case was remanded for compliance with ICWA.

CRCP 16.2 (e) (10)

Marriage of Runge, 2018 COA 23
One day before expiration of the five-year time limit in C.R.C.P. 16.2 (e) (10) to bring an action to allocate marital assets or liabilities, wife filed her motion to discover and allocate assets. The trial court granted Husband’s motion to dismiss. On appeal wife argued that she met the “plausibility” standard enunciated in Warne v. Hall, 2016 CO 50 and should have been allowed discovery to support her claim.

The Court of Appeals first held that the trial court had jurisdiction to rule on the motion because it was filed within five years of the decree of dissolution. It then held that the plausibility standard is not applicable to a C.R.C.P. 16.2 (e) (10) claim. Warne involved a dismissal under C.R.C.P. 12 (b). The Court of Appeals agreed that wife’s motion did not state sufficient grounds to allow discovery and affirmed the order of dismissal.

Dissenting, J. Taubman opined that C.R.C.P. 16.2 (e) (10) sets a limit on the trial court’s jurisdiction and it lost jurisdiction to consider the motion the day after it was filed. He pointed out that the plain language of the rule gave the trial court jurisdiction to reopen the case for five years.& If it was not reopened in five years, the trial court lost jurisdiction. 

MLPI Book Club

What the heck is modern representation? In a nutshell, modern representation is a way to practice law that is a win-win for clients and lawyers. And the CBA’s Modern Law Practice Initiative (MPLI) is here to teach you how to do it!

The mission of MLPI is to revolutionize the legal profession by enhancing access to innovative, client-driven, and cost-effective legal services that empower lawyers to build thriving law practices. Modern representation simultaneously solves two urgent problems in the legal world — clients aren’t hiring lawyers because they believe they can’t afford them and lawyers need paying clients to have a successful practice. Modern representation makes both of these things possible by recreating how legal services are offered through alternative fee arrangements and reforming firm logistics with technology, office space, work-life blend, and more!

How do I become a modern lawyer? MLPI makes it easy! We published a step-by-step guide called Successful Business Planning for the Modern Law Practice. Chapter by chapter you will learn the nuts and bolts of how to start your own modern law practice (or convert the one you already have)! Topics focus on practical aspects such as creating a budget, marketing, client intake, engagement agreements, pricing, technology, office space, ethics, and staffing. What’s more, we bring the guide to life through the MLPI Book Club, which meets once a month to discuss each chapter with lawyers practicing modern representation in different practice areas. The Book Club meets the last Thursday of every month from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the CBA office located at 1900 Grant Street, Suite 900, Denver, Colorado 80203. We even provide beer, wine, soda, and delicious snacks!

Want to know more? To learn more about the Modern Law Practice Initiative and modern representation, visit our website, check out our article in the Colorado Lawyer, contact our CBA liaisons Joanne Cresbassa and Kathleen Schoen, or reach out to our chair Erika Holmes. Join the revolution and discover the win-win for clients and YOU!


By Terri Harrington

As family law attorneys we see all kinds of people expressing hatred and verbally abusing each other. I see this behavior on Facebook as well as in my client emails. Why is this happening so much? Is it happening more than ever? I am not sure. We certainly have many more ways to express ourselves and get our message across in writing or pictures now days so maybe that is why it seems like the hatred level is increasing. But I was stunned to see fowl and abusive language on large signs at the Women’s March. There were little girls reading those signs. Why have we stopped modeling good behavior for our children? Why has abusive language and name calling become so prevalent?

I just finished a wonderful book called “Walking with the Wind” by John Lewis, the Georgia congressman who was beside Martin Luther King in the battle for civil rights. The hatred level was pretty high back then. People were lynched and beaten until bloody and hospitalized. Some were even permanently paralyzed. The striking thing about this book is Lewis’s determined dedication to nonviolence and the teachings of Martin Luther King and Gandhi. John Lewis refused to hate anyone even after being brutally beaten and jailed dozens of times for simply riding a bus or sitting at a counter.Even after some of his friends and some little girls were killed because of the color of their skin. This is the kind of leader and hope we need to turn us away from hatred and show us the way to compassion and kindness.

Are we having more because our affluent society keeps us separated? We don’t borrow sugar from our neighbors anymore. We live depressed and divided. And the divisions in American may only be getting worse. One study compares women in Nigeria with women in North America and the urban North American women had the highest rates of depression. Rural women in Nigeria had the lowest rates of depression. The poorest societies need to cooperate in order to survive. Women gather water and food together. Men hunt together and build and maintain bonds that we just don’t have in today’s America. Would there be mass shootings if we had communities living and working together for the common good?

When hurricanes rage and floods destroy, Americans help each other. They house and feed each other. Right after 9/11 the murder rate when down in New York City. During World War II bombing the rate of psychiatric admissions declined. Do we need crisis to bring us together? To treat each other well? Why does helping others in their suffering bring about the type of kindness that keeps us heathy and happy?

Back in 1998, when John Lewis’s book was copyrighted, he said that there was a lack of listening going on in America and that it was a result of the polarization and segmentation of our society as well as the explosion of the media. Everyone is shouting and no one is listening. This is happening again today. Martin Luther King dreamed about a Beloved Community that extended to all people equally. If we care for our Beloved Community, we have to work to build it. We have to listen and love and help everyone. Not just the ones who think like we do. We are one. We need to try to act like it.

Child-Centered Litigation? An Alternative Approach

By Rachel Catt

I practiced family law in San Francisco, California (and surrounding counties) from 2002–14. I have been practicing here in Colorado since. In that time, I have made several observations about how children in Colorado are treated differently than their California counterparts in a divorce context.

In some ways, Colorado is advanced. For example, California still refers to “sole or joint custody” which includes “legal custody” and “physical custody,” not “parental responsibilities,” “parenting time,” and “decision making.”

Both jurisdictions use a best interest approach. Colorado, of course, defines “best interest” neatly in C.R.S. 14-10-124.  In the California code, the statutory definition of best interests is scattered in different sections. California Family Code §3011 explains that in evaluating best interests, the Court shall consider the health, safety, and welfare of the child; any history of abuse; the nature and amount of contact with both parents; the habitual or continual use or abuse of drugs and alcohol; etc.

A later code section explains an aspect of best interests by describing the order of preference for granting custody. The first and best choice is “both parents jointly… or to either parent. In making an order granting custody to either parent, the court shall consider, among other factors, which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and continuing contact with the noncustodial parent.” This section also makes clear that “immigration status of a parent… shall not disqualify the parent… from receiving custody” Finally, “in cases where a child has more than two parents, the court shall allocate custody and visitation among the parents based on the best interest of the child.” Ca. Fam. Code (a)-(c).

The wishes of the child are discussed at Ca. Fam. Code §3042. As in Colorado, “if a child is of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to custody or visitation, the court shall consider, and give due weight to, the wishes of the child in making an order granting or modifying custody or visitation.” However, unlike Colorado, the statute goes on to say that If the child is 14 years of age or older and wishes to address the court regarding custody or visitation, the child shall be permitted to do so, unless the court determines that doing so is not in the child’s best interests.”

Other than the possibility of having more than two legal parents, and the presumption of addressing the court at age 14, there is little substantive difference in a best interest analysis in Colorado or California. The Colorado factors are more conveniently located, but rifling through the California code and case law reveals that the analysis is virtually the same.

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Conscious Lawyering: The Practitioner’s Role in Reducing Conflict

By Tia M. Zavaras and Tabitha Sikich

As a newcomer to representing families, I am surprised at how many people need to engage in family law litigation. Though it should be no surprise, the divorce rate in America is shockingly high—one of the highest in the industrialized world, in fact.1 But what keeps us up at night is what we are learning about the long-term negative effects of divorce—particularly the high-conflict variety—on children. When we combine the numbers with research that demonstrates how parental conflict harms kids, the picture that emerges shows nothing short of a national mental health crisis. The aggregate research tells a definitive story: kids’ exposure to their parents’ divorce conflict is correlated to an array of intellectual, emotional, and social challenges, such as lower academic performance, inability to focus, depression, and engaging in risky behaviors. As family law practitioners who deal daily in divorce and child custody, it is our business—indeed, our responsibility—to know what divorce conflict is doing to kids.

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Valuation Implications of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017

By Ronald L. Seigneur, CPA/ABV, ASA, CFF, CVA, CGMA of Seigneur Gustafson LLP

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) was signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017. The President referred to the legislation as the biggest tax cut in American history, with substantial reductions in both corporate and personal income tax rates. Whether or not that holds true, it is by far the most significant income tax legislation since 1986, when the passive activity rules were first enacted.

The TCJA will have significant impact on both Subchapter S corporations and C corporations as well as other pass-through entities and the owners thereof.1 This article will focus first and primarily on the impact of tax reform on C corporations. Second, we will look briefly at the significant and complex changes to pass through entities, which include Subchapter S corporations, limited liability corporations and partnerships and sole proprietorships. This latter pass through taxation aspect will dramatically change the tax landscape for the owners of these pass-through entities as they assess the impact of the TCJA on their individual income tax obligations.

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Arapahoe County District Court Domestic Relations Bench/Bar Meeting

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Division 11

  • Judge Frederick T. Martinez, Division 11.
  • CJA: (303) 649-6322.
  • Setting procedures and general timeframes: Once the case is ripe (after mediation) the Court will conduct a telephone conference with the Parties to set contested hearings. Generally, permanent order hearings will be set as early as thirty days. If the parties need more time, they will be accommodated. Emergency hearings can be set at any time by filing a forthwith emergency motion.
  • Requested procedures regarding discovery disputes: If the issue is raised at any of the hearings, the Court will address the issue at that time. Otherwise file a motion and contact the Clerk of the Court. In this circumstance, the Court will attempt to resolve the issue over a telephone conference. The Court may Order an in-person Case Management Conference depending on the cooperation of the Parties, Counsel and the outstanding issue.
  • Conferral procedures: Face to face, verbal or email conferral is sufficient. Attempted conferral with no response is not conferral—unless there is obstructionist behavior.

Division 14

  • Judge Bonnie McLean, Division 22 (D.R. and Problem Solving Courts).
  • CJA: 303-649-6219.
  • Setting procedures and general timeframes: If parties need a date, please contact Ms. Hunter via e-mail. Cases generally set during status conferences with Court.
  • Requested procedures regarding discovery disputes: please contact Ms. Hunter to get a phone conference or status conference set up.
  • Conferral procedures: please follow the rule.
  • Who to contact for pre and post decree judicial officer assignments: please contact the division clerk and she will get you the information you need.

Division 24

  • Judge Peter F. Michaelson, Division 24.
  • CJA:
  • We do not do notices to set. I will give out tentative dates (3) to counsel for status conferences, either by person or by phone- the Judge sets all temp order and permanent order hearings on the record.
  • Discovery disputes: Consistent with the Case Management Orders, counsel are to contact the Division Clerk by email and describe the dispute. If Judge believes the issue requires forthwith action, Division Clerk will respond to them concerning times—usually within 48 hours of the initial email—for a forthwith telephonic hearing.
  • Conferral procedures: Follow the plain language of the Rule.

Division 12

  • Magistrate H. Clay Hurst, Division 12 (Paternity).
  • CJA: Colleen Anderson 303-649-6215.
  • Setting procedures and general timeframes for all Paternity cases: Initial Phone Conferences set in 15 minute increments upon filing the case. Court will call parties.
  • Except for emergency hearings all contested matters will be set at a 30 status/trial management conference by the Magistrate once the issue is ripe. Mediation is mandatory before any contested hearing or trial unless specifically waived for good cause by the Court.
  • Conferral procedures: All parties, including pro se, must confer on all contested issues. Except in emergency situations, good faith attempts must be made and the manner and method stated to the Court in the initial pleading or response to a pro se pleading.
  • Requested procedures regarding discovery disputes: Contact Ms. Anderson to get a phone conference or status conference set.

Division 25

  • Magistrate Tamar Wilson, Division 25.
  • CJA’s: Ashley Tucker ( and Paul Bennett (
  • Setting procedures and general timeframes: email preferred; must file a motion for a full day hearing—it is very rare that a full day hearing will be granted; hearings will likely be set within 2 months.
  • Phone Conferences: Magistrate is not likely to allow phone conferences except in very limited situations where a status is necessary and there are no disputes that need to be addressed.
  • Absentee testimony: Court is reluctant to grant a request for absentee testimony for a contested hearing where the witness is an essential witness (any witness other than a foundational witness).
  • Exhibits: Attorneys and pro se parties MUST confer regarding exhibits prior to the hearing beginning.
  • Motions to Continue: Magistrate requires good cause (even if there is a stipulation for a continuance).
  • CFI: Must file a Motion for a CFI/PRE. Court will not necessarily grant request for a CFI even if there is a stipulation. The Magistrate’s position is that only if she needs the assistance of a CFI/PRE in order to determine the best interests of the minor child, will she appoint a CFI.
  • Conferral procedures: Magistrate requires conferral between all parties, including pro se parties, in regards to all Motions, issues, and exhibits.
  • Content of Motions: Motions that are lengthy are not generally necessary. Do not use superfluous language imputing negative intent on the other party (unless arguing a 404(b) motion) (i.e. Actions by Petitioner are part of a repeated pattern of manipulation and control intended to intimidate the Respondent…), disparaging the other party, or otherwise stating a non-legal opinion about the other party (i.e. It is clear that the Respondent is just trying to delay so that he can gain the upper hand…). It is not helpful to the Court. Just state the facts of the matter and apply any law as necessary.
  • Case Law and Statutory Citations: If you are arguing a specific position to the Court, come prepared with the case law, including a copy for the court, and the specific statutory cites.
  • Grandparent Visitation: There have been several cases involving this issue. Please make sure that you are familiar with Troxel v. Granville, 530 US57 (2000) and the Colorado cases that apply Troxel to CRS 19-1-117. The legal standard is not simply whether what the grandparents are requesting is in the best interests of the minor child.

Division 26

Division 35

  • Magistrate Lisa Teesch-Maguire, Division 35 (D.R., D&N, and P.B.M.C. Problem Solving Court).
  • CJA’s: Emails:;;; Phone Numbers: 303-705-6781 and 303-705-6783.
  • Setting procedures and general timeframes: Please e-mail (preferred) or please call. No need to file Notices to Set. We’re currently setting ~2 months out for half day hearings.
  • Requested procedures regarding discovery disputes: Please hold a phone conference between parties (including pro se)/counsel first to attempt to resolve all issues. If unable to resolve, please e-mail (preferred) or call to set phone conference with Magistrate. No need to file motions to compel; must first hold a telephone conference between parties in regards to motion to compel; may set a telephone conference with the Court if parties cannot resolve disclosure/discovery issues after the parties/counsel have spoken regarding their outstanding issues.
  • CFI/PRE: No need to file a motion for CFI or PRE; must set phone conference to request CFI or PRE unless appointment is fully stipulated to, and then parties can send appointment Order or suggested names to Court.
  • Exhibits: Attorneys and pro se parties MUST confer regarding whether there are any exhibit stipulations prior to the hearing beginning.
  • Updated Contact Information: All parties must update their contact information prior to every appearance in this division by filling out the updated contact information form on the courtroom tables.
  • Conferral procedures: Magistrate requires conferral between all parties, including pro se parties, in regards to all Motions, issues, and exhibits.
  • NO ex parte communication. Must CC all parties and all attorneys on communications with the Court.

Division 406

  • Magistrate Rachel Larson, Division 406 (all IVD child support and IVD paternity matters).
  • CJA: 303-649-6217.
  • Setting procedures and general timeframes: Notices to set are Mondays at 10:00 a.m.
  • CSE office and Clerk set the child support hearings. Magistrate may order the People or the moving party to contact the Division Clerk within 14 days to set a hearing. Hearings are set for 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on the number of attorneys involved in the case.
  • Requested procedures regarding discovery disputes/conferral procedures: Parties may file a Motion to Compel with the Court. If there are attorneys in the case, they are expected to confer with all parties, including CSE.
  • Div. 406 hears all IVD child support and IVD paternity matters. (If child support enforcement is involved in the case, Div. 406 will hear the child support portions of all D.R. cases).

Division CI in Littleton

  • Magistrate Frank Moschetti, Division Cl-Littleton
  • CJA: Lee Ann Williams 720.568.4838.
  • Setting procedures and general timeframes—only in session on Thursdays and Fridays

*Don’t forget about our FREE mediation program for never-married parties with parenting-time motions, and our wonderful FREE Self Help Center on the First Floor of Courthouse II at ACJC.

Maintenance Sub-Committee Update

By Whitney N. Manning of Littman Family Law

On March 16, 2918, the maintenance sub-committee of the Family Law Section met to discuss needed changes to the Colorado maintenance guidelines based upon the newly enacted federal tax legislation known as "The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act." Significant aspects of this bill are schedule to take effect January 1, 2019. This is the third meeting of the sub-committee which has worked hard to create a draft of amendments to C.R.S. § 14-10-114, 115 and 122.

Beginning January 1, 2019, the payor spouse will no longer receive a tax deduction for maintenance paid and the recipient spouse will no longer have to declare maintenance as income. This in Federal law invalidates our maintenance formula. The sub-committee has focused on the fact that the changes in the deductibility of maintenance make the current statutory guidelines unfair and may impact the parties’ abilities to meet their reasonable and necessary needs should changes to the guidelines not occur.

The committee focused on trying to resolve this looming issue so that a bill could be submitted before the April 9, 2018 cut-off date for new bills in the Colorado Legislature. Most recently, the committee focused its attention on drafting amendments to C.R.S. § 14-10-114 that change the current formula to more accurately reflect the post-tax payments made and monies received. The sub-committee ran multiple financial scenarios in an effort to create the most reasonable and fair guidelines under the new federal legislation. On March 16, 2018, the sub-committee submitted its proposal to the Family Law Executive Council for approval.

The proposed changes involve running the current maintenance formula and adjusting the recommended maintenance amount to take into account the new tax consequences. The sub-committee proposed for parties with a combined income of $0.00 to $10,000/month, the derived formula amount will be decreased by 20% to provide the actual amount to be paid and to be received. For example, if the payor earns $10,000/month and the payee has no income, under the existing guidelines, the maintenance amount is $4,000/month. Under the sub-committee's proposal, the maintenance amount would be $3,200/month to account for the loss of tax deductibility and for the fact that the payee no longer will claim maintenance as income.

For parties with a combined income of $10,000.01 to $20,000, the recommended maintenance amount from the current formula will be reduced by 25% to accurately reflect the post-tax amount paid and received. The committee also recommended a reduction of the income range for which the guideline formula is to apply. The current statute allows for the guidelines to apply to a gross combined income of up to $360,000 but under the new proposed language, the guidelines would only apply to combined incomes up to $240,000. The adjusted gross incomes will still involve the recipient's income not exceeding 40% of the total adjusted gross incomes.

For parties whose combined incomes exceed the above range, the Court is to make a determination of maintenance taking into account the tax consequences, using the maintenance factors already present in the statute.

The proposal was approved by the Family Law Executive Council. The CBA plans to work with the legislative drafting office to submit a bill with a sponsor before the end of the current legislative session. The Family Law Section will keep you advised of developments as they occur.

Meet the Magistrate: Magistrate Kelley Southerland’s passionate Approach to Law and Life

By Kristi Anderson Wells, Esq.

Magistrate Kelley Southerland is a former family law attorney and GAL who currently serves in the Seventeenth Judicial District, Adams County. Mag. Southerland was appointed in October of 2017 and brings over fifteen years of experience serving children and families as a CFI, GAL, CLR and a mediator to the bench. Mag. Southerland’s background has been almost perfectly tailored to her current role guiding families through the gauntlet of domestic relations court.

The Magistrate was born in Cordele, Georgia. County seat of Crisp County and self-proclaimed "Watermelon Capital of the World," Mag. Southerland describes Cordele as “deeply rural.” Much of her youth was spent playing outside, driving go carts, hunting for arrowheads with her father, and swimming in the local river. When she wasn’t adventuring outside, the Magistrate spent her time playing piano. As happens from time to time, as a teenager, the Magistrate longed to leave her small hometown and found a way to get out quickly, spending only three years in high school before leaving for college. She attended Wesleyan College, an all-women’s college located in Macon, Georgia. Mag. Southerland credits much of her success to her time at Wesleyan.

“It was the first college in the world chartered to grant degrees to women,” says the Magistrate. “I wouldn’t be talking to you today if I hadn’t gone there.”

Whether it was the small class size, the focus on academic success, the opportunities to engage in leadership, or the lack of distractions, the Magistrate says she found the school to be a great incubator for creating women leaders. “The school gave us support and fostered success. It allowed us to focus on our strengths and the strengths of others,” she says. “It’s intangible, but there is definitely something to single-gender education and I’m a huge proponent of it.”

At the age of 20, with a newly-minted degree under her belt, the Magistrate left Wesleyan and moved to Colorado over the objection of her parents. Having never been on an airplane, or even west of the Mississippi, Magistrate Southerland says knew that Colorado was her home from the first time she crested the hill at Genessee and saw that great view of the Rocky Mountains.

She says she had no idea when she arrived here what she wanted to be when she grew up. Raised as a Southern Baptist, the Magistrate was drawn to the study (but not the practice!) of religion and first went to the Iliff School of Theology.

However, theology school created more questions than answers for the Magistrate. What it did make clear to her, she says, was that she was neither drawn to academia nor was she called to be a minister. A call to service was becoming clear, however. Law school presented the Magistrate with an opportunity to follow a career path that would challenge her intellectually while still allowing her to serve.

The Magistrate reports that her first year at DU Law was not a stellar experience. She plodded through the first year, felt slightly better in the second year, and finally experienced an epiphany in her third year. She says when she stumbled upon the Children’s Legal Advocacy Clinic: “It was like a light bulb went on for me. Suddenly I had found my direction and I knew it was family law.”

Mag. Southerland describes the early years of her practice as dedicated to family law. Her focus started to shift more into CFI work, mediation and GAL work as the years progressed. Mag. Southerland says her passion for family advocacy has only increased over the years. To her, becoming a magistrate is simply an extension of her commitment to families, peacemaking, problem-solving, and empowerment of children and families.

“I wanted to stay engaged in the work I was doing, continue to serve children and families, but also have a new approach to my career,” said the Magistrate. “Much like a GAL, a magistrate is an issue spotter and problem solver. Problem solving with families and addressing the best interests of children – that is what I feel best at.”

On her first day on the bench last fall, Mag. Southerland says she was both nervous and ready.  “It was crazy, humbling, exciting and wonderful,” she says. The Magistrate describes hitting the ground running, getting sworn in and then immediately handling her first full day of hearings, with the transition from her prior practice to her job as a magistrate feeling almost seamless.

Her current duties include domestic relations, pre- and post-decree parenting time cases, Temporary Orders hearings, non-contested APRs, contempt hearings, and emergency motions. The Magistrate will also hear Permanent Orders where both parties consent.

The Magistrate says the best thing about her job is the people who come into the courtroom. "Some are happy to be there," she says, "some are sad, some angry. I love helping all people." Her goal, she says, is to empower people with problem-solving approaches, help to shape the co-parenting conversation, and let them know how conflict can hurt their children. Mag. Southerland is also passionate about families’ stories of redemption. “I have seen people change in wonderful ways. Someone’s mistakes today do not necessarily dictate their stories forever.”

She says that the hardest part of the job is always wanting to be “on.” “It’s hard to leave the hearing behind when it's done sometimes,” says the Magistrate. “There is always something that you wish you could have done better.” She is careful to remember her work is not just hearing cases, it’s serving families. “Each decision I make is having an impact on someone’s life. I try to make the best decisions I can with the information I receive.”

Her pet peeve: attorneys who are not prepared with information that addresses the statutory elements or somehow moves the case forward. She cautions attorneys to focus on the elements they need to prove and not to let the statutory elements get lost in the strong emotions of domestic relations cases.

"For the most part," she says, "don’t just tell me about the parental conflict unless it’s relevant to what the child needs. Tell me what the child needs." When in doubt, the Magistrate says that attorneys can always ask for a status conference to get issues resolved promptly.

When asked about her personal life, the Magistrate reports that in her spare time she is passionate about health, wellness and nutrition. Although she has not played piano as much since she took the bench, she is an avid cyclist, runner, skier, and yoga/mindfulness practitioner. While she describes having taken trips road biking across Italy and France, Mag. Southerland sounds just as enthusiastic when discussing her free time activities as she does when describing her work. It’s almost as if the same passion and discipline that drives her to eat healthy and to exercise regularly also drives her love of the law.

"My life is aligned at all levels and my job really matches me as a person," says the Magistrate.  "Outside of work I'm still a lawyer. I’m as committed and passionate about ethics, justice and doing the right thing off the bench as I am on."

When asked where she wants to be in five years, the Magistrate does not hesitate: "There is a lot of joy in this job," she reports. "This isn’t just my job though. It’s my vocation and my calling. I’m right where I want to be."

Colorado Bar Association
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