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Errol Zavett


Senior Counsel

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With a legal practice spanning a half century, Errol Zavett has earned the esteem of the family law community both in Illinois and nationally. Along with his notorious sense of humor and kind-heartedness, Mr. Zavett is well-known for his expertise in high net-worth divorce, contested divorce, collaborative divorce, division of property, asset valuation, and complex child custody matters.

Divorce may be a legal process, but Mr. Zavett emphasizes that at its core it focuses on individuals and their families. “Nobody is too smart or too stable to never have a marital problem,” says Mr. Zavett. “I have personally represented many lawyers and professors, and they are almost always no more knowledgeable than anyone else when it comes to navigating a divorce. In my parents’ generation, divorce was a great shame. Now, there is nobody in America who doesn’t know somebody who has been divorced.”

Having chaired every family law organization in Illinois, taught family law in a law school and lectured on many topics, not only in Illinois but to the  Kansas, Nevada and South Carolina State Bar Associations, Mr. Zavett communicates the depth of his knowledge and experience to the next generation of family lawyers.

He believes it is critical for new lawyers to understand how family law has evolved. “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 spectators as participants. We have to stay ahead of the game. Our job is not only to predict what the courts will decide, but also understand how people will react,” says Mr. Zavett.

Divorce law is also very different now than it was when Mr. Zavett first began his practice. “Everything we do has changed. The hardest parts, dealing with hurt feelings, jealousy and anger, and the emotional stages that people go through,” will never change.  Mr. Zavett says. “The critical issues are the same but the legal work we do is very different. When I started practicing, it was a question of ‘Is the title in his name or her name?’ Today, we treat the marriage as a partnership. We assign values to things like housekeeping and child care.  We have to understand retirement issues and obscure assets.”

Mr. Zavett helps his clients realize that the road ahead is rarely a straight line. The first client interview usually begins 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?” explains Mr. Zavett.  “I spend a lot of my time predicting how my client will feel about a proposal and how the other side will accept a suggestion or an idea. These are very real concerns and we have to deal with an objective reality.”

For Mr. Zavett says that a collaborative settlement, when possible is the best option. “In the beginning, it is not unusual for clients to believe that everything can be split up equally and resolved amicably. But to be honest, every case is unique and many situations have the potential to be difficult,” Mr. Zavett says.

For Mr. Zavett, the most challenging part is when there is a dispute over the children. “That can keep me up nights. If children’s lives or futures are at stake, then that’s a big concern. The rest is just money.”

Education & Publication


  • University of Iowa, B.A., 1960
  • University of Illinois, J.D., 1963 (Phi Delta Phi)


  • Admitted to the Illinois State Bar, 1964
  • Admitted to the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, 1964

Honors and Awards

  • Listed in The Best Lawyers in America
  • Listed in Leading Lawyers of Illinois
  • Listed in Super Lawyers
  • Recipient, Michael S. Cohen Award (2011)
  • Recipient, Judge Edward Jordan Lifetime Achievement in Family Law Award (2019)

Community Involvement

  • Board Member, Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation
  • Board Member, Anti-Defamation League Local Board


  • Faculty, “Drafting Marital Settlement Agreements,” Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (ICLE)
  • Lecturer on Family Law, Illinois, Kansas, Nevada and South Carolina State Bar Associations
  • Lecturer on various Family Law Topics, Chicago Bar Association, Illinois Bar Association
  • Lecturer on Family Law, American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

Articles and Publications

  • Consulting Editor, Nicholas Illinois Civil Practice, Family Law Volume, 1999
  • Co-Author: “Chapter on Appeals,” Illinois Family Law II, 1977, revised, 1981, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1995, 1998, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2015, 2017
  • Author, “Negotiating Settlements in Matrimonial Cases,” Guide to Negotiations, 1979
  • Author, “Practitioner’s Introduction to the new Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act,” General Practice Review, 1977

Professional Activities

  • Adjunct Professor of Law, DePaul Law School

Professional Memberships

  • Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers; Member of its Bounds of Advocacy Committee; Client Relations Committee; Chairman, History Committee, 1997-2001; Governor, 1989-1992, 1998-2004; Illinois Chapter, President, 1988-1989; Board of Managers, 1983-1992
  • Member, Editorial Board, Journal of American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
  • AAML Bounds of Advocacy
  • AAML Divorce Manual: A Client Handbook
  • Chairman, Chicago Bar Association, Matrimonial Law Committee, 1982-1983
  • Chairman, Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, Family Law Committee, 1981-1983
  • Chairman Illinois State Bar Association, Family Law Section Council 1986
  • Editor, Family Law Newsletter, 1980-1988
  • Member, CLE Program, 1987-1990
  • Member, Advisory Committee, Illinois Family Law Reporter, 1983 to present
  • Member, Illinois State Bar Association, Family Law Section Council, 1980-1987
  • Member, Chicago Bar Association
  • Member, Illinois State Bar Association
  • Member, American Bar Association

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