The mission of Methodist Justice Ministry is to provide free legal representation and ongoing support to vulnerable community members impacted by family violence, child abuse, and child neglect.
Without court orders, financial resources, or support, victims of domestic violence often feel trapped in abusive homes. Innocent children witness and are often the victims as well. The CDC reports indicate that children from families with low socioeconomic status are five times more likely to experience abuse and neglect in their lives. They are also at a higher risk of failure to graduate, depression, criminal activity, and drug and alcohol abuse.
Unfortunately, our community is not immune to these challenges. Weekly, MJM receives 25-30 new calls for help with legal advocacy. Most callers are referred to us by domestic violence shelters, child advocacy centers, and law enforcement. These situations are highly emotional and can be dangerous. Our services are designed to help break cycles of abuse, create a safe environment for children, and offer hope for the future.
"Poverty creates a justice gap; the legal system is often not accessible to underserved populations. MJM works to bridge that gap by providing quality representation and access to other services that help ameliorate the effects of poverty."
— Sarah Pricer, MJM Attorney
How We Help
MJM attorneys file lawsuits in Tarrant and Johnson County’s family courts including protective orders, custody, and divorce. We represent victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse, or severe child neglect. These situations are often complex and may require multiple suits and tremendous preparation for court. Our client’s households are generally within 125% of federal poverty guidelines and they cannot afford legal counsel. MJM’s skilled attorneys advocate for the safety of our clients, no matter the length of their case.
MJM also offers ongoing support which includes covering counseling fees and emergency financial assistance. Our staff connects clients with a network of services to help families transition to safe and stable lives.
"I love being an attorney at MJM because while we often see the worst of society, we also see the best. We see grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even neighbors, step in to care for children who have been abused. These caregivers are typically at or below the poverty level before taking in additional children, yet do not hesitate to make this huge commitment when asked. We are also able to watch women who have experienced family violence gaining their independence and strength."
— Jodie Connaughton, MJM Legal Director and Attorney
After more than a decade of insults and beatings witnessed by their children, Amanda’s husband and the father of her children ejected her from their family home. Still, the husband continued to terrorize her and their children.
Sometimes he would allow the children to live with their mother, and then, unpredictably, demand that they return to live with him. He refused to contribute any financial support for the children when they were with Amanda. He repeatedly told Amanda and the children that he would have her killed if she filed for divorce. He threatened to injure Amanda if she did not do whatever he ordered.
Often calling Amanda obscene names in front of the children, the husband blamed Amanda for all his failures. Once, when the older daughter tried to defend her mother against these insults, the husband beat her, even breaking the eyeglasses she was wearing as he punched her in the head. And then, when the son tried to defend his sister, the husband humiliated and beat him, as well.
Eventually the husband ordered Amanda to move to another city and to have no contact with her children, upon threat of death. During this time, the husband also forbade the three children from texting or calling their mother.
After Amanda was referred to MJM by another client, MJM obtained a protective order for the entire family, sole custody of the children for Amanda, denial of access to the children by the husband, child support, temporary spousal support, and an order that the husband complete six months in a batterer’s intervention and prevention counseling program. More than this, MJM has helped Amanda and the children become free of this man’s abuse by contributing financially to their rent, groceries, utilities, new eyeglasses, and living expenses.
Once you are an MJM client, you truly become family. Over the years, Amanda has utilized MJM’s professional counseling, a case worker to access community resources, along with MJM helping the older daughter in attending dental assistant school.
“The assistance we have provided in this case is very typical. When one of our clients thanks us, we tell her, ‘Don't thank us. Thank God.’”
— Norma Serrano, MJM Executive Legal Assistant
Sharon is a young woman who had a son with a man who beat her repeatedly, especially when he was drunk or high on drugs. In these times, Sharon would take her son and hide from this man a few nights at a time, often sleeping on friends’ couches. When Sharon finally found the strength to leave the man completely, she moved in with her mother and quickly found a job at a downtown sandwich shop. Somehow, the man found out where Sharon was working.
Luckily, she was not working when he came into the restaurant; the man threatened to shoot the other employees if they would not tell him where Sharon lived. The owner of the restaurant fired her immediately to avoid the danger to his employees and patrons. From then on, Sharon lived in fear that this man would find out where she was living and carry out his threats to shoot her and her mother.
Sharon was referred to MJM by the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office. MJM quickly obtained a protective order against the man and a custody order for the son, granting full custody to Sharon and denying the man any access to the child.
MJM then provided the funds for Sharon to move into her own place, including her initial rent and utility expenses, as well as help with job training. The man against whom MJM obtained the protective order is now in prison.
After the man was removed from her life, Sharon enrolled in a certified nursing assistant school, completed the course and passed her state exam. She is soon to enroll in a program to become a certified medication assistant and to work at a children’s hospital.
After William was sexually abused by his mother’s boyfriend when he was very young, and excessively disciplined by the mother throughout his life, he was placed by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services with his grandparents, through a “voluntary” power of attorney signed by his mother under threat of William’s placement in foster care.
Although William had been diagnosed with a series of mental illnesses, his mother failed to obtain his medications or seek counseling for him. Repeatedly in the space of a year, William attempted to kill himself by jumping from a moving vehicle, and he was hospitalized on multiple occasions.
In a court ruling obtained by the District Attorney of Johnson County, because the mother had committed family violence against William, a protective order prevented the mother from coming within 200 yards of William, his grandparents’ residence, or his new school. William improved greatly while the order was in place; he had no outbursts and made no suicide attempts. During this time William’s grandparents also sought and obtained help from MJM for William’s medication and counseling.
When the protective order expired after two years, the mother showed up at the grandparents’ door, demanding to take William away. The grandparents were frantic to obtain court authorization for them to maintain custody and restrict the mother’s access. MJM obtained temporary orders that severely limited the mother’s access to William.
Shortly after his mother’s return, William’s life began a downward spiral. Eventually, her repeated threats to take him away from his grandparents and punish for humiliating her led him to attempt suicide again. Then, refusing to acknowledge her part in causing William’s suffering and deterioration, refused to visit him when he was hospitalized and refused to particulate in counseling.
MJM stepped in to protect William by terminating the mother’s maternal rights. William still struggles with his past and his illnesses, but he is much better now, and MJM still provides support to William and his grandparents through its Safe Home Program and counseling services.
When Adrienne began babysitting for a mother with five young children and learned more about the family, Adrienne realized the mother was a drug user and a victim of abuse by the parade of men in her life. The only stability and safety in the lives of these five children was Adrienne.
Adrienne started caring for the children for days, weeks, and then months without the mom returning or even calling to speak to the children. After the children became more and more settled with Adrienne and her family, she began seeking a more permanent living situation for the five children.
After Adrienne was referred to MJM by Child Protective Service, MJM filed suit and obtained conservatorship of the children for Adrienne, giving her sole discretion for their wellbeing. These youngsters now feel very much a part of a loving, extended family that treats them as their own. Over the years, MJM has provided financial assistance for rent, utilities, food, and clothing for Adrienne and these five children, along with school supplies and Christmas presents.
Fort Worth Police Department
817-335-4222 or 817-392-4390
Safe Place Locator
Texas Abuse Hotline
1-800-252-5400 | txabusehotline.org
Texas law says anyone who thinks a child, or person 65 years or older, or an adult with disabilities is being abused, neglected, or exploited must report it to DFPS.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
800-799-SAFE (7233) | thehotline.org
Highly-trained advocates are available 24/7/365 to talk confidentially with anyone experiencing domestic violence, seeking resources or information, or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship.
Texas Health & Human Services Family Violence Program
Provides emergency shelter and support services to victims and their children, educates the public, and provides training, and prevention support to various agencies.
Methodist Justice Ministry
817-339-2407 (habla espanol) | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
750 West 5th Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102
Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office
817-884-1400 | tarrantcounty.com/en/domestic-relations-office
The Tarrant County Domestic Relations Office consists of four distinct, yet inter-dependent divisions: Family Court Services, Child Support, Legal Enforcement, and Community Supervision.
Johnson County District Attorney Office
817-556-6802 | johnsoncountytx.org
Parker County District Attorney Office
817-598-6124 | parkercountytx.com
Tarrant County Family Courts
817-884-1111 | tarrantcounty.com/en/domestic-relations-office
Provides guidance and tools to enable parents to free themselves and their children from the damage of custody litigation.
Johnson County Family Courts
817-556-6323 | johnsoncountytx.org
Parker County Family Courts
817-594-8409 | parkercountytx.com
SafeHaven of Tarrant County
877-701-7233 (habla espanol) | safehaventc.org
Provides 24 hour hotline and operates two emergency shelters. They also provide food and meals, personal care items, clothing, transportation, counseling, parenting training, and job readiness support.
First Street Methodist Mission
817-335-6080 | fumcfw.org/mission
Provides emergency food, clothing, infant formula, limited financial assistance, and case management services in an atmosphere of respect and compassion.
The Women’s Center of Tarrant County
817-927-2737 | womenscentertc.org
Provides programming in three service areas: Rape Crisis and Victim Services, Employment Solutions, and General Counseling Services.
211 | tarrantcares.org
Call 2-1-1 for community resources based on location.
Department of Family and Protective Services Handbook
Victim Information and Notification Everyday
A free, anonymous telephone service that gives victims of crime information and notification about offender custody status, and related court events.
Residential program for single, pregnant women in need of physical and emotional support.
A supportive living community for women — whether single or with children — leaving a crisis, such as abuse, poverty, homelessness, tragic divorce, or other reasons.
682-325-9307 | cherylsvoice.org
Provides educational opportunities for survivors and the community about preventing intimate partner violence.
One Safe Place
817-916-4323 | onesafeplace.org
Provide comprehensive crime prevention agency devoted to preventing crime and violence in Tarrant County’s neighborhoods, schools, and homes including programs for victims of family violence.