Colorado's Displaced Homemakers Act

Publication year1998
27 Colo.Law. 129
Colorado Lawyer

1998, June, Pg. 129. Colorado's Displaced Homemakers Act


Vol. 27, No. 6, Pg. 129

The Colorado Lawyer
June 1998
Vol. 27, No. 6 [Page 129]

Specialty Law Columns
Family Law Newsletter
Colorado's Displaced Homemakers Act
by Gretchen Aultman

Most domestic relations attorneys have represented spouses who have spent their married lives raising children and making a home for the family. When these spouses are faced with divorce, their need to make decisions about the future including planning for self-sufficiency, is often overwhelming. If the parties have adequate resources, the spouse can seek vocational or career counseling, go to school or obtain vocational training, and may be supported through payments of rehabilitative maintenance while developing a stable and profitable career. In many cases, however, family resources are not sufficient to provide these types of support

One of the best-kept secrets for domestic attorneys is the displaced homemakers program administered by the Colorado Department of Labor. Practitioners will have noticed that $5 of the $99 filing fee for domestic cases is designated a "Displaced Homemakers Fee." The fee is one of several sources of funds for the state's displaced homemakers program, which provides employment counseling and related services for qualified individuals, often without cost to the participant

Statutory Authority

Effective July 1, 1980, the Colorado General Assembly passed House Bill ("H.B.") 1114, which created Title 8, Art. 15.5, known as the Displaced Homemakers Act ("Act"). The Act establishes the displaced homemakers program, which is administered by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment ("Department").1 Pursuant to the Act, the Department has developed programs and services for displaced homemakers throughout the state of Colorado that are offered by a number of multipurpose and job service centers established by the Department and through contracts with other agencies and organizations.

A displaced homemaker is defined in the Act as an individual who

(a) Has worked in the home, providing unpaid household services for family members for a substantial number of years; (b) Is not gainfully employed; (c) Has had, or would have, difficulty finding employment; and (d)(I) Has depended on the income of a family member and has lost that income; or (II) Has depended on government assistance as the parent of dependent children, but who is no longer eligible for such assistance, or is supported, as the parent of minor children, by government assistance, but whose children are within two years of reaching the age of eighteen years.2

Most displaced homemakers participating in the displaced homemakers program are between the ages of thirty and fifty, and most have children. Although most displaced homemakers are women, some men have used the program's services as well. Most participants have not received public benefits. Most have worked outside the home, but generally at low-paying jobs held more than ten years before the divorce or legal separation occurs. As noted, in order to be eligible for services under the program, a homemaker is not permitted to be gainfully employed. The Department has taken the position that a low-paying job does not constitute gainful employment.3

Services Provided

Pursuant to the Act, multipurpose service centers must provide the following services: job counseling; job training and placement; health education and counseling services; financial management services; educational services; legal counseling and referral; and outreach and information services concerning employment, education, health, public assistance, and unemployment assistance.4

Job Counseling

The Act requires employment counseling to be specifically designed to meet the special needs of displaced homemakers, and that counseling address appropriate employment opportunities. In many cases, job counseling may begin with testing to determine the displaced homemaker's educational and achievement levels and areas of interest. Not all homemakers are tested. Some are tested only after the need for specific information becomes apparent.

Using the test results, if any, the service center will work with the displaced homemaker to determine what specific employment areas are of interest, whether they are reasonable areas to pursue, and whether training or education is necessary or advisable. Counseling includes substantial participation by the homemaker; the centers do not tell the homemaker what to do but help to identify preferences and goals.

Job Training and Placement

Service centers are required to develop training and placement programs and to help displaced homemakers gain admission to existing job-training programs and opportunities. Equally important, service centers must help identify community needs and create new jobs.5

Because most displaced homemakers have not had the need or opportunity to look for employment in the past, they may receive training on how to look for work and how to apply for work. The homemaker may have the opportunity to attend workshops on resume writing and interview skills. Pursuant to the Act, jobs created or associated with the administration of the Act through...

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