Simpson Thacher Obtains Favorable Settlement in Complex Custody and Order of Protection Case

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary for Families is honoring Jonathan Kaplan from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett for his compassionate and devoted pro bono representation of “Mary” to obtain a favorable settlement in a complex custody and order of protection case.

In December 2019, Mary, a mother of three children, one of whom was also the child of her abuser, sought an order of protection against her former partner and to obtain full custody of her children. For multiple years, Mary had experienced severe physical and emotional abuse at his hands, but her incomparable strength eventually pushed her to pursue legal action.

In March 2020, Jonathan began representing Mary in a complex Order of Protection trial with a custody trial to follow. Midway through, Jonathan obtained a favorable settlement to both custody and protection whereby Mary was awarded physical custody of her child and final decision-making authority. Additionally, her former partner was prohibited from having any contact with her other than through a monitored platform and only to the extent strictly necessary to address the care and custody of their shared child.

Jonathan demonstrated an unparalleled commitment to the case and to Mary, and his excellent legal skills throughout the case were key to securing a positive outcome. He drafted motions, dealt patiently with repeated adjournments, and handled thorough preparations for trial on no less than five occasions. Jonathan’s advocacy was instrumental in overcoming the challenges of having little documentary evidence to support Mary’s testimony, and in helping her be heard by a judge who was at first skeptical based on her initial pro se petition, which only described the most recent incident of domestic violence rather than the years of abuse she had endured. Jonathan drafted an amended family offense petition that shed light on the abuse that Mary had experienced and set the stage for her compelling testimony at trial. In Jonathan’s words, her testimony was “a big catalyst” for the settlement to happen. Jonathan supported Mary through the emotional challenges of preparing for her testimony and navigating the frustration caused by a lengthy and uncertain legal process during the pandemic.

Throughout this multi-year process, Jonathan was always available to address the continued issues Mary had with her former partner, who continued to harass her and attempt to use his visitation with their son as a means to control and manipulate her. Providing both legal advocacy and an empathetic ear, he was truly committed to helping Mary make her wish “to be safe” come true, and was ecstatic when she received the final favorable settlement.

Mary’s strength was imperturbable and an inspiration for Jonathan. He reflects, “I was incredibly inspired by my client. Her strength in the face of so much adversity and her ability to always put her children first was uplifting. The result was such a good one, because she is a good person.”

After the case settled, Mary told Jonathan, “You saved my life. I feel so free, like I just got out of prison.” Mary is now working helping other victims of domestic violence. Reflecting on the case, Jonathan said that this experience had been truly rewarding and “the most meaningful thing [he has] done as a lawyer.”

“The unique relationship of trust built between Mary and Jonathan was amazing to see. It was so rewarding to witness, and I was honored to be a part of it. For example, the way Jonathan dealt with opposing counsel, who was not always very responsive, was masterful — Jonathan was always assertive but polite in how he transmitted his client’s frustrations. He had a truly client-centered approach.”

Betsy Tsai
Director, Courtroom Advocates Project

Join us at our Above & Beyond Awards Ceremony on November 2, 2022, as we honor Simpson Thacher & Bartlett’s outstanding pro bono work.


If you can’t join us, but would like to support Sanctuary’s work, please consider making an Above & Beyond donation here.

Silvia Marroquin is an associate in the international arbitration practice of Chaffetz Lindsey in New York and a member of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Council.