In July of 2019, Ms. Q came to DV LEAP asking for support in her case. Colorado has a great law protecting survivors from being forced into mediation, which allows anyone who claims to have suffered abuse to be granted an exemption from mandatory mediation requirements. In this case, Ms. Q attempted several mediations with her ex-husband regarding their divorce and custody of their children, but finally sought the exemption due to his past and ongoing emotional abuse and bullying tactics. The court denied her request. Ms. Q appealed on the grounds (among others) that the denial violated the statute.
DV LEAP sought to file an amicus brief in this case to help the appellate court better understand the policies underlying the mediation exemption for survivors, specifically the legislative history that led to the creation of the statute and the well-researched power imbalance that often prevents survivors from participating in mediation on an equal footing with their abusers. In a surprising decision, the Colorado Court of Appeals denied our request to file an amicus. DV LEAP has filed a motion asking the appellate court to reconsider its denial.
Generally, amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs are meant to help courts by providing additional information beyond what the parties’ briefs can present on an issue in the case, such as social science research, legislative history, the position of the community stakeholders, or other jurisdictions’ approaches. While courts understandably don’t want an amicus brief that repeats information already argued in the parties’ briefs, they are typically open to supplemental information that will help them better understand the issues before them. DV LEAP was joined by Colorado’s state coalition against domestic violence, Violence-Free Colorado, in this amicus brief, which, as a result provides the combined perspective of national and local domestic violence experts on the importance of a broad application of the mediation exemption for survivors. While it is not clear why the Colorado Court of Appeals refused to accept our amicus brief, we hope that it will direct the trial court to grant Ms. Q her exemption and afford her the full protection the statue requires.