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Paralegal To LLP: Kris Freeman’s Guide To Thriving In Family Law

In the ever-evolving field of law, paralegals play a crucial role in the success of legal teams. Aspiring paralegals often seek guidance from those who have navigated the path before them. In this insightful article, Modern Family Law’s Kris Freeman, a former paralegal recently admitted to Colorado’s first class of Licensed Legal Paraprofessionals (LLPs), shares her journey, experiences, and valuable advice for those considering a career in this rewarding profession. Kris reflects on her transition from aspiring lawyer to seasoned paralegal to successful LLP, offering invaluable knowledge to help new paralegals thrive.

Legal Procedures & Document Management


File Organization: Keeping Your Workflow Streamlined

Organization is the key to streamlining your workflow. How do you know where to file stuff? Every firm has its way of organizing its files and its naming convention but in general, they are separated into the basics: Pleadings, Drafts, Correspondence, Financials, Trial Prep, and Attorney notes/research.

Requesting Court and DHS Records: Best Practices

Every state is different and sometimes you can find what you are looking for online. For instance, New Mexico Arizona, and California have their register of actions online. Most jurisdictions have a fee and cost breakdown on their website for copies of certification exemplification and postage. This sounds terrible but never trust the client to provide you with those documents. It’s better to review the register of actions and make those record requests yourself. No one wants to register a foreign order only to find out it is the wrong order.

How to request DHS files. Have you ever had your attorney serve a subpoena duces tecum on DHS only have to have a Motion to Quash filed and then granted? Your client can obtain copies of their DHS file. Your client can authorize your office to request a copy on their behalf. The DHS website is user friendly and easy to navigate. I try and ask clients when they retain if they have had prior DHS investigations and if they have I have them fill out the release and authorization when they are signing the fee agreement or shortly after they have retained. You’ll need a copy of their driver’s license and wet signatures on everything. Once you submit the request processing takes up to sixty days. Be sure to docket a deadline to subpoena the records custodian or the DHS case worker if you need either of those folks to testify at hearing. The records custodian will contact you about authenticating the record in lieu of testimony.

Mastering Legal Drafting: Motions, Orders, and Statutory References

I struggled with this for the longest time. Crippling writer’s block was a real thing until I took a CLE and the presenter whose name I can’t recall offered the following advice “Keep it simple stupid.” “Who are you what do you want why do you want it what statutory authority do you have and tell me why I should grant it.” “The proposed order should reflect why I’m granting your motion”. You could probably see the light bulb above my head turn on!

Relevant Statutes Rules of Civil Procedure Court Rules and Procedure Case law 16.2 deadlines. I read whatever statute book I could find lying around the office. These days you can find all of this online for free. Casetext is user friendly. Lexis is just as robust as Casetext but not as easy to navigate. Lexis has more annotations than Casetext but that’s probably because of how Casetext manages their free services vs. subscription service. Most of the jdf forms on the court website reference the statute that is applicable to that pleading. You can copy and paste that statute into your web browser and you should be able to find what you need. You will need the rules of civil procedure to reference for active case management. What are the rules for service of process? How long do you have to file a response? When is the deadline to submit financial disclosures? Court Rules? What the heck is 121? Statewide Practice standards! Bookmark all these webpages. You will reference them daily.

Discovery and Client Disclosures: Ensuring Accuracy and Completeness

What to look for in client disclosures; First and foremost income. Look at paystubs and be sure to look at the rate of pay and frequency of pay. Review bank statements closely. You might see a transfer to an account that was previously disclosed or maybe a payment to a credit card that wasn’t disclosed. Review W-2’s. Is the client contributing to a retirement account or maybe a flexible spending account? Look at current and prior tax returns particularly tax form 1040 2a through 6a. You will see qualified dividends IRA and pensions there. Maybe the client didn’t disclose an early distribution? Maybe they have a Schedule C or a K-1 that reflects income that they didn’t include. Looking for those pitfalls might mean the difference between settlement and discovery.

When it comes to discovery review with a client you should go through the Interrogatories and Requests for Production with a fine-toothed comb. Clients tend to write N/A in their Interrogatories. Odds on bet are that they have a job they have a prior work history and if they have kids they need to focus on number thirteen. Make sure those answers are accurate and read like your attorney wouldn’t mind seeing them in an exhibit notebook. The same could be said for Requests for the production of documents. Your client probably has a checking and savings account. The client probably has credit card statements. Your client might have an IRA a 401 (k) or even a TSP. “Not applicable” is rarely the correct response. As a rule discovery responses are due 35 days after service so don’t wait until the 34th day to get those drafts and documents from the client. Check-in with the client every week for a status update. Do not let this fall off your radar. Ask the client to get you drafts and documents at least 5 days before the due date so you have time to review and revise. Nobody wants to defend a motion to compel.

Child Support & Family Support Registry


Child Support Basics: Factors and Calculations

Basics of child support. Oh boy. This is a big one. Support orders in a JV case or a DR case are based on relevant facts. For a JV case: The needs of the child; The standard of living and circumstances of the parents; The relative financial means of the parents; The earning ability of the parents; The need and capacity of the child for education including higher education; The age of the child; The financial resources and the earning ability of the child; The responsibility of the parents for the support of others; The value of services contributed by the parent with whom the child resides the majority of the time; The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the parents been married; For DR cases: The financial resources of the child; The financial resources of the custodial parent; The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved; The physical and emotional condition of the child and his or her educational needs; and the financial resources and needs of the noncustodial parent. They are essentially the same just different statutes.

Family Support Registry: Operations and Income Assignments

The Family Support Registry (FSR) is a clearing house to make and receive child support payments. The obligor makes payments to the account and the FSR distributes payments to the obligee. This system is the authoritative source to track child support payments. That is all the FSR does. It’s utilized by the Court the Child Support Office and the preferred option for attorneys. There is an annual fee to use the FSR. I believe it’s $25 a year. Each case that is filed with the court is assigned a unique FSR number. That number is activated by judicial administration when processing support orders. Once that account is active the client can create an account and begin using the FSR.

DR & JV Cases


Understanding DR vs. JV Cases

DR and JV cases – what’s the difference? DR cases are filed under Title 14 (domestic relations) and JV cases are under Title 19 (children’s code). As you know DR’s are APR Dissolution Legal Separations and JV’s are Paternity Child Support and Dependency and Neglect. Paternity cases establish legal parentage the need to establish legal parentage is to establish child support. Any parent that applies for TANF or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families must disclose to the Department of Human Services who the other parent is so legal parentage may be established. Most times that is completed by genetic testing or by an admission of paternity. The difference between a non IV-D case and an IV-D case. The non IV-D cases are cases that do not involve the child support office but have FSR accounts. IV-D cases start with the child support enforcement unit and have FSR accounts.

Failing Forward


Embracing Mistakes: Learning and Growing from Challenges

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Everyone makes them. It’s what you do with that mistake that makes the difference. Every success I had as a paralegal was built on a prior failure.

Conclusion


The journey from a paralegal to a Licensed Legal Paraprofessional is one of immense growth and fulfillment. Kris Freeman’s experiences highlight the myriad of skills and knowledge that paralegals acquire and the significant impact they have within the legal field. The new LLP program in Colorado opens exciting doors for those interested in continuing their career progression, providing a structured pathway to greater responsibility and professional recognition. Aspiring paralegals are encouraged to embrace every challenge and learning opportunity, knowing that their dedication can lead to a rewarding and dynamic career.

By: MFL Team

Posted July 03, 2024


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