Dawson County Domestic Violence attorney finds her experience as a teacher helpful in her current career
By Cindy Mullet
Ranger-Review Staff Writer
Practicing law in a wide variety of situations gives Jayne Mitchell a strong background for her latest challenge as an attorney with the Dawson County Domestic Violence program.
Mitchell started her professional career as a teacher, but experiences with students who were abused sparked an interest in the processes of child protective services and motivated her to go back to the University of Montana to study law, she said.
After graduating with her law degree she worked in the office of the Montana State Auditor as an insurance attorney, then served as the Pondera County Attorney for 10 years. Her law background also includes experience as an in-house attorney for a construction company, work as a family law attorney and serving as Deer Lodge City Attorney, she said.
The mid-August move to Glendive to work with DCDV in providing services for people who are victims of domestic abuse fits well with her original motivation to become an attorney, she noted.
Survivors of domestic abuse who make the decision to leave an abuser are faced with many challenges. Trying to negotiate the legal system can be a major hurdle. Mitchell is there to help with orders of protection, draw up parenting plans, represent clients in divorces, and deal with child care, bankruptcy and landlord/tenant issues, she said.
Sometimes all clients need is help filling out paperwork, but if an attorney is needed she can represent clients in court. If the opposing party is not represented by an attorney, she will simply go to court for moral support. Just helping clients find their way around the courthouse can be a major service, she noted.
Her work with DCDV is challenging, interesting and rewarding. After her years of experience in so many different areas of law, it is good to be in a place where she can see results in individual lives.
“It’s a nice feeling to be able to help people,” she noted, adding that seeing the challenges survivors have to face makes her more empathetic.
If she could change one thing, she would like to see young men and women receive good financial education so that they know what it takes to raise children before they start a family. So many young people go into it blind and then face problems they don’t know how to handle.
“That’s the teacher part of me,” she said.
While most of her work is with individual clients, she is also involved in educational experiences. She helps organize and provide input for pro se clinics to be held quarterly in the area. The first clinic involving orders of protection was held in Glendive in November. A second clinic dealing with parenting plans is being planned for Miles City, she said.
A major educational seminar to provide training on response to child sexual assault is also in the planning for this spring. That seminar will be held in Glendive, she added.
In her experience as a law student and then as a practicing attorney, Mitchell has seen the law come a long way in its understanding of domestic abuse and child abuse. When she was in law school, attorneys and law enforcement officials were just starting to talk about and understand abuse issues. Now the system is much more aware of and responsive to abuse, she said.
For most of her life Mitchell has lived in Western Montana but she is enjoying Glendive and looking forward to becoming more involved with the community. All of Montana is pretty and Eastern Montana has its own unique beauty, she said, adding that she really likes spending time in Makoshika State Park.
She has spent a lot of time in small towns and likes the small town lifestyle so Glendive is a good fit.
“I don’t like a lot of traffic,” she said.
While Mitchell is based in Glendive, her services are also available to domestic violence programs in Miles City and Sidney so she serves clients from the Eastern Montana counties of Dawson, Prairie, Wibaux, Richland, McCone, Treasure, Garfield, Custer, Powder River and Rosebud.
Reach Cindy Mullet at