Summit County Courts offer free aid with domestic relations cases
The Summit County Combined Courts will offer free resources for couples or families pursuing domestic relations cases on Wednesday, Oct. 28. The Domestic Relations Rural Resource Day will offer free legal aid services and several other services for self-represented individuals.
The services will not only be open to individuals involved in domestic relations cases — such as divorces, child support or child custody — but for those who are also interested in entering the process.
“For people thinking ‘I want to do this but I don’t want to go through the hassle,’ it can be complicated, but we’re here to help you,” self-represented litigant coordinator Mary Perry said. “Sometimes, folks need to know what’s gonna happen next.”
She added that she would assist parents to calculate child support in cases of separation. In addition, mediators will offer their services to help families come up with a parenting plan or separation program.
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Two counselors will also offer parenting planning guidance, two attorneys will give free legal advice, Spanish interpreters will help translate and judges will be on the bench throughout the day to assist with cases. A free parenting class that is required for domestic cases will also be offered free of charge by the Bright Future Foundation.
“I’m not here to tell you it’s an easy process because it’s not,” Perry said. “I get a lot of questions domestic-wise.”
The event is the third of its kind in the mountain area, with two similar events hosted in Eagle County last year under the guidance of family court facilitator Laurie Mactavish. Summit County was selected this fall for its central location within the Fifth Judicial District, easily accessible by individuals from Lake, Clear Creek and Eagle County.
She said that Summit County currently has 150 domestic-relations cases; and, while Summit has more representation than surrounding counties, she still expects a strong turnout. She originally got the idea from a presentation at Denver University, which offered a similar resource driven by students and staff.
“I thought, ‘Why can’t we do this on a rural basis throughout the year?’” she said.
The first event was held in August of 2014.
“Representatives of all four counties came out that day,” she said. “All of the surveys were unbelievably positive.”
In addition to legal services, the event is intended to connect individuals with resources outside of the court, such as the Family and Intercultural Resource Center and Child Support Services.
“We’ll hopefully be able to minimize the stress in terms of the financial assistance we can give them,” she added. “Knowledge helps reduce that anxiousness in terms of not knowing what’s coming next.”
All of the services offered by Fifth Judicial District staff and independent attorneys are offered on their own time and their own dime.
“I’m so appreciative of the professionals who are helping us and the staff who are making this happen. They are giving their time and stopping their regular duties to address domestic cases,” Mactavish said. “Without them, this wouldn’t happen.”
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