Dawn Kaplan, Esq., of the family law firm Weinberg, Kaplan & Smith has provided thoughtful, well-informed and diligently individualized legal advice to divorcing couples for two decades. For 11 of those years, she's been a partner at the Marlton-based firm she co-founded.
And Kaplan, as well as fellow founder Amy Smith and Michael Weinberg, a partner since 2019, has seen case after case that proves no divorce is the same.
"Every person that walks through our door is completely different than the last," she says. "Things aren't always black and white because families can be gray, and sometimes you have to think outside the box to find what works best for your client and their children."
In addition to mindfully and knowledgeably navigating the unique elements of each client's situation, Kaplan has also noticed a shifting trend that stands out in an "always-changing" facet of law.
"There is a presumption for joint custody as you have more and more parents sharing in the child-rearing responsibilities as well as the financial responsibilities of the family," she explains. "More parents are agreeing to a joint custody arrangement, and this requires parents to work together for the best interest of their children. It's not what is best for the parents but what is best for their children which takes into consideration the schedules of both parents with more families having both parents working outside of the home as well as their children's schedules."
The ongoing court backlog impacting family-law cases has also given rise to creative approaches to finalizing a divorce on the most mutually beneficial grounds.
"It pushes parties to other avenues, like mediation, or even settling between counsel outside of court involvement," says Kaplan. "Why that's important—and why I think it's very helpful—is that … you're in control of your matter, and it allows you to do things that are a little unconventional: It allows you to handle your particular matter in a way that may be outside the scope of how the Court can decide your matter given the case law and statutes in our state. It allows parties to resolve issues in a way that is best for them and their children, given their particular age, personality or interests."
After all, beyond her own extensive legal experience, Kaplan has gone through a divorce herself and keenly empathizes with how a divorce can affect children, how difficult actually going through a divorce is, and how rewarding it can be to watch one begin this next chapter in their lives. "Sometimes I maybe overshare," she says with a laugh, "but I think it's important for clients to see us not just as a professional in a suit, but the real person behind that who truly understands the difficulty in the entire process, emotionally and financially."
After all, while change can be daunting, it doesn't have to be a negative. That's where honest communication and setting realistic expectations of the reality of the situation as an individual has a vastly different marital dissolution.
"Getting divorced is a lot of work," Kaplan begins. "It's a lot of heavy lifting, both emotionally and financially.
She continues: "A divorce is something that's ending, it's something that didn't work, but it doesn't have to mean failure. … With children, they don't like the unknown. When clients want that personal advice about what they should say to their children, I say that if they're a united front and they're coming at it the same way—no matter how hard it could be depending on your own emotions related to the divorce—children are going to trust both of their parents. If you can be a united front on those issues, even if you aren't on the others related to your matter, your children are going to be so much better for it."
That sensitivity, compassion and tireless advocacy for her clients have made Kaplan not only an in-demand family-law attorney but also an obvious choice to be recognized with a Personal Excellence Award, an honor she'll receive at the end of the month when the Burlington County Regional Chamber of Commerce (BCRCC) hosts its 2023 Voice of Business award reception.
"She was chosen for this award based on her personal commitment to give back to Burlington County and the community where she grew up," notes Kristi M. Howell, BCRCC president/CEO. "Dawn has overcome obstacles to achieve her goals and serves as an example, especially to young women."
For Kaplan, the award is a reminder of how important it is to approach every client with the transparency, honesty and authenticity they each deserve from the person they're trusting to guide them through something as inherently challenging and indelibly life-changing as a divorce.
"At the end of the day, ours is a firm that really cares," she affirms. "Family law is not an area of practice you can kind of muddle through. A client will sense that and no matter how trivial an issue may seem at that moment, they have to know that you care about it and understand why it is important to them in their present reality — that will mean the most to them. That's why it's so important that they know we're passionate about their positions, related to the larger issues but also the smaller ones, and giving them the guidance they need every step of the way through their particular matter."
Weinberg, Kaplan & Smith
8000 Sagemore Drive, Suite 8301, Marlton
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 11.
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