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Glenda* was referred to JCADA for representation in her final protective order hearing from one of JCADA’s legal partners at the Montgomery County Family Justice Center (FJC). Glenda had gone to the FJC looking for assistance after being physically assaulted by her husband. The physical assault left her fearing for her life and requiring medical treatment. Obviously shaken, Glenda got a temporary order of protection against her husband. Because her husband was in jail for the assault against her, Glenda was terrified to see him for the first time since the incident at the final protective order hearing.

This is where JCADA’s Legal Program comes in. Clients who have legal representation for final protective order hearings are proven to do better than those without an attorney.1 First, many respondents (individuals whom the order would be against) hire attorneys. If you are someone like Glenda, who could not afford an attorney on such short notice, this can be very intimidating. Most of us do not understand the many intricacies of the legal system, which can often be overwhelming. Having an attorney can help alleviate some of that overwhelmingness, helping victims and survivors feel more empowered to go forward with their legal issues. Second, as in the case of Glenda, we know that having representation may also mean a victim or survivor will not have to testify, reducing the amount of revictimization a victim or survivor may face.  Lastly, an attorney in any legal proceeding between a perpetrator and victim of abuse can help correct the power imbalance that exists in intimate partner violence relationships. 

JCADA’s staff attorney was able to negotiate with Glenda’s abuser’s attorney and come to an agreement. As per the agreement, Glenda would receive the financial relief to keep herself and her child safe and supported, while ensuring that she would not have to testify in open court about that traumatic and violent night. This was especially important because Glenda had already retold her story to law enforcement, the FJC, and the JCADA staff attorney. JCADA wanted to ensure that she wasn’t forced to retell her story more than necessary. After the negotiation with the abuser’s attorney, Glenda and her JCADA staff attorney went before the judge. Her abuser simply consented to the protective order and the relief it stipulated. In the accompanying criminal case that continues against the abuser, JCADA’s staff attorney is able to provide crime victims’ rights representation, which means ensuring the victim’s rights are protected in the criminal case, including working with the prosecutor to represent the victim’s interests in the case, court accompaniment, and helping draft a victim impact statement.  Feeling supported and empowered, Glenda is now well on her way to creating the safe and healthy future her and her child deserve. 


See Jennifer S. Rosenberg and Denise A. Grab, Supporting Survivors: The Economic Benefits of Providing Civil Legal Assistance to Survivors of Domestic Violence, Institute for Policy Integrity (2015).


A lawyer of more than 20 years, Lisa Seltzer Becker has helped hundreds of clients in Maryland and the District of Columbia deal with divorce, custody, domestic violence, Collaborative law, premarital agreements, education and school discipline, and other related issues. Lisa is a graduate of the University of Maryland, and received her JD from Washington College of Law, American University. She is admitted to practice in Maryland and the District of Columbia. Lisa is currently Of Counsel at McMillian Metro, P.C. and has proudly served on the JCADA Board of Directors since 2012.


What drew you to JCADA initially? Why did you decide to join the board and get more involved?

About five or six years ago, I met an individual who was using the counseling services at JCADA, and she told me how much it was helping her. I was very impressed.  Of course I had seen the JCADA signs on the bathroom stalls at synagogue, so I was already familiar with JCADA’s purpose. However, from my conversation with this individual, I realized that JCADA provided counseling services to individuals experiencing domestic abuse in many forms, such as emotional and financial abuse and issues of control and manipulation regarding child custody. 

As a divorce and custody lawyer, I was dealing with clients experiencing these issues on a daily basis and I saw the synergy between JCADA’s services and my practice. So I volunteered to talk to a group of JCADA clients about the legal process involving divorce and custody.  I really enjoyed the experience and from there it was just a natural progression of getting more involved with JCADA (giving in-service training to the JCADA therapists regarding the law, talking to small groups of clients, joining the Board, helping on committees, etc.).

What do you do as a member of the JCADA Attorney Network?

As a member of the Attorney Network, JCADA refers clients to me and I give the JCADA referrals a free one-hour consultation, although it usually ends up being longer than one hour. The prospective client may or may not hire me and I’m not obligated to take on any particular client. I also sometimes talk to small groups of JCADA clients about the legal process. The Attorney Network does not have a particular pro bono requirement; it’s really a function of what an individual attorney is able to do. It might be giving an hourly discount, a free consultation, talking to JCADA clients about a particular legal issue for free, or taking on an entire case pro bono. 

Why should other attorneys consider this volunteer opportunity?  

I highly recommend that other attorneys volunteer for several reasons: (1) JCADA is a great organization which provides free counseling services to its clients and empowers them to pursue what they need to help themselves, and many JCADA clients have a great need for experienced lawyers; (2) JCADA’s Legal Access Program Director, Spencer Cantrell, is an attorney but brings a social worker’s perspective, and she is accustomed to referring cases to attorneys and maintaining a very professional relationship with attorneys while respecting the ethical rules and boundaries required for lawyers and therapists; (3) a lot of clients going through divorce and/or custody litigation may need additional emotional support which JCADA provides to its clients through counseling; consequently the client does not have to rely inappropriately on the lawyer as an emotional resource; and (4) volunteering can substantially increase business for the lawyer.

What are some issues that JCADA clients experience that you might find unique in your practice?

I have always been interested in the plight of agunot (“chained women”). These are Jewish women whose husbands refuse them a get (Jewish religious divorce).  Some Jewish female clients, especially Orthodox ones, have to factor in this additional concern when getting divorced in an abusive situation. A controlling husband might try to extort a better financial settlement or custody arrangement for himself before agreeing to give the get.  

How has volunteering with JCADA impacted you in your practice?  

It has broadened my domestic practice in both tangible and intangible ways. I have gotten wonderful client referrals from JCADA. I have also gained knowledge about domestic abuse and how it impacts on my clients.  Both are invaluable.

By: Spencer Cantrell, JD, Legal Access Program Director

JCADA assist clients at any point in an abusive relationship: pre-separation, through a separation or divorce, and post-separation. One of the most common issues for clients post-separation is their attempt to co-parent with an abuser. Due to the dynamics of abuse, specifically power and control, co-parenting can be nearly impossible. For example, many JCADA clients report that their ex-partners:

  • Return the child(ren) late; 
  • Insist on coming up to the front door;
  • Block their cars so they cannot leave a meeting area; or 
  • Refuse to return the child(ren) when the weather is inclement or other family matters arise. 
Parents also often report frustration that their abusive partner refuses to help with homework or sends the child(ren) home after their bedtime without having served them dinner. While we understand that different parents will have varying rules and that no two households are identical, we can also identify patterns of continuing power and control in this behavior1. Because of these dynamics, many JCADA clients living in Montgomery County would benefit immensely from a safe, supervised visitation and custody exchange center. This resource would promote the safety of both the clients and their children.

Take for instance the story of one of JCADA’s clients, Trish. Trish’s ex-husband has severe mental health issues. In addition to being physically, emotionally, and verbally abusive to Trish, her ex-husband also attempted suicide in front of their two children. Thanks to a court order, Trish was able to receive full custody of her children and her ex-husband was ordered only supervised visitation. Her husband came to the first three supervised visitations, but then failed to return because he did not have a car and transportation to the center was difficult on Sundays due to the amended bus schedules. Having satellite locations around Montgomery County would be helpful to this family, because the children still want to see their father and have some reassurances that he is okay, but this can only occur in a safe, secured environment.

Another JCADA client who would benefit from supervised visitation centers around Montgomery County is Madison. She is in the process of divorcing her husband who has been violently abusive, suffers from severe substance abuse issues, and totaled Madison’s car. Madison now relies on the bus to get their four children to and from doctor’s appointments, school, and church. Madison also wants her children to have a relationship with their father, but his substance abuse issues make it safe only in a controlled environment. Furthermore, Madison’s husband lives in a group home for recovering addicts, an environment unsafe for visitation. Having satellite locations available would be one more step towards helping Madison, her children and countless other families stabilize their lives by letting the children see their parent while feeling safe.

In the past, other JCADA clients have expressed interest in using a supervised visitation or exchange center. However, for various reasons this was not an option: the sole location was too inconvenient; their calendar was already fully booked; scheduling was not feasible due to parents working hours; one party would not agree to it; or other options were simply easier. Many of our clients have turned to a relative’s house, McDonald's parking lots, or firehouse stations. One JCADA client always goes to the same gas station, and knows where the surveillance cameras are, so that at least if something happens to her or her children, it is documented. This is a tragic way to approach facilitating a relationship between children and their parents. Additionally, fast food workers and firefighters are not typically trained in de-escalation and how to best manage any issues that might arise in an abusive relationship or when children choose not to visit with one parent.

Adding more visitation centers around Montgomery County would be incredibly helpful to so many of JCADA’s clients and to so many more. Trained staff in a secured location would help to stop the cycle of abuse, preserve children’s relationships with both parents, and create an environment where all parties feel safe and comfortable in encouraging children to have a relationship with both parents.

In the past, other JCADA clients have expressed interest in using a supervised visitation or exchange center. However, for various reasons this was not an option: the sole location was too inconvenient; their calendar was already fully booked; scheduling was not feasible due to parents working hours; one party would not agree to it; or other options were simply easier. Many of our clients have turned to a relative’s house, McDonald's parking lots, or firehouse stations. One JCADA client always goes to the same gas station, and knows where the surveillance cameras are, so that at least if something happens to her or her children, it is documented. This is a tragic way to approach facilitating a relationship between children and their parents. Additionally, fast food workers and firefighters are not typically trained in de-escalation and how to best manage any issues that might arise in an abusive relationship or when children choose not to visit with one parent.

Adding more visitation centers around Montgomery County would be incredibly helpful to so many of JCADA’s clients and to so many more. Trained staff in a secured location would help to stop the cycle of abuse, preserve children’s relationships with both parents, and create an environment where all parties feel safe and comfortable in encouraging children to have a relationship with both parents.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of client.


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