|Attorney Profiles - Child:Errol Zavett|
"Nobody is too smart or too stable to never have a marital problem," says Errol Zavett. "I have personally represented many professors, lawyers and other highly-educated people. When it comes to navigating a divorce, they are no more knowledgeable than anyone else. In my parents' generation, divorce was a great shame. Now, there is nobody in America who doesn't know somebody who has been divorced."
During a practice spanning a half century, Zavett has become well known for his experience, his sense of humor and his empathy. Divorce may be a legal process, but Zavett emphasizes that at its core it focuses on an individual and on a relationship that has not worked out. For Zavett, the first interview usually starts the same way: after getting the basic information, he puts his pen down and says to the client, "Tell me why you're here. What really happened?"
After they've explained the problem, Zavett's approach is to help his clients understand what to expect, help them create a realistic forecast of events, and help them realize that the road ahead is rarely a predictable straight line.
"In the beginning, it is not unusual for clients to believe that everything can be split up equally and resolved amicably. And in truth, any lawyer will tell you that a collaborative settlement, when possible, is the best option. But, every case is unique and many 'simple' situations have the potential to be difficult," he explains.
"I spend a lot of my time predicting whether the other side will accept a suggestion or an idea. These are very real concerns, and we have to deal with an objective reality." The greatest challenges, he notes, are disputes over children. "They can keep me up nights," Zavett says. "If children's lives or futures are at stake, then that's a big concern."
Of the increasing complexity of divorce law in the modern era, Zavett says, "Everything we do has changed. Dealing with hurt feelings, jealousy and anger are just some of the stages that people go through. The important matters are the same, but the legal work we do today is very different. When I started practicing, it was a question of 'Is the title in his name or her name?' Now we are looking at all these other things. We now treat the marriage as a partnership. We assign values to things we had never considered just a decade or so ago including housekeeping and child care.
"One of the reasons I keep practicing family law is that there are always fascinating differences in cases. As divorce attorneys, we are as much observers as participants. We have to keep watching, keep learning and stay ahead of the game. Our job is not only to predict what the courts will decide, but also understand how people will react."
Admitted to the Bar
1964, Illinois and U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
University of Iowa, B.A., 1960
American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers: Fellow; Bounds of Advocacy Committee, Member; Client Relations Committee; History Committee, Chairman, 1997-2001; Governor, 1989-1992, 1998-2004
Accomplishments and Publications
Guide to Negotiations, "Negotiating Settlements in Matrimonial Cases," 1979