A judge slamming down a gavel.

Judges Need Educating Too!

No matter how smart they are, judges have to learn the law somewhere (and at the risk of looking like I’m sucking up, I continue to marvel at how judges can retain so much knowledge about so many different areas of the law).

Like any other lawyers, judges need to brush up on their family law skills – many come from civil or criminal law backgrounds, and have no experience in family law experience before being appointed to the bench. And they need a crash course in Colorado domestic relations law to preside over cases with confidence. And even the experienced family law judges need to keep current with the changes in the law.

One memory I will never forget was from a statewide Family Law Institute back in about 2003 or so. Newly-appointed Judge David Miller was there to find out what family law was all about, and he was hanging out at the back of the large auditorium with sandals, a goofy hat, and Hawaiian shirt, having a grand old time.

The bench itself puts on judges’ courses, but even they are not enough. That’s where the bar steps in. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) is a prestigious national organization of family law attorneys. I’ve taught at a couple of their presentations, but never actually joined (I keep meaning to apply, but the application form is so long, and time is tight. And they have a test!)

2019 AAML Family Law Judicial Training

On August 23, 2019, the AAML hosted a half-day CLE for district court judges from El Paso and Pueblo counties, with several statewide experts presenting on a variety of topics. I was asked to present on drafting military retirement orders.

As discussed in the Military Divorce Guide, federal law has some pretty strict requirements what needs to be included in an order for the division of military retirement. And rather than kicking the can down the road for another day, it’s easier to just draft the order properly to begin with.

Most of the time, courts rely upon the attorneys involved to submit proposed orders that meet with DFAS requirements. However, sometimes that’s not an option, either because the lawyers themselves do not really know how to draft such an order, or because the spouses are both pro se, i.e. getting the divorce without a lawyer, and do not know how the retirement is to be divided.

That’s where this CLE comes in. My presentation was on Military Retirement Orders for Judges (click for the outline), and contained the basic law the court needed to know, as well as sample language to include in an order.

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