Family first: Mother-daughter legal team makes a special name for itself in the field of matrimonial law

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By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

The Franklin law firm of Abbatt Zurawski PC features an intriguing logo, one containing the capital letters AZ wrapped within a circle that encapsulates “The Family Firm,” the trademarked identity of a mother-daughter legal team.

As the name suggests, the firm specializes in all aspects of matrimonial law, offering an “A to Z” expertise in the areas of divorce, child custody, and parenting time disputes.

The firm, located a few steps from the popular Franklin Grill restaurant in the quaint village west of busy Telegraph Road, is a two-attorney practice led by Candyce Abbatt and her daughter, Casey Zurawski. The two joined forces in the summer of 2019, less than a year before the pandemic altered the legal landscape for firms big and small.

“COVID obviously caused a disruption to our normal way of practicing law, but by June 2020 we were back to a regular office routine even though the courts were still closed,” said Abbatt, a University of Michigan-Dearborn alum who earned her law degree from Wayne State University. “Over the past three years, we’ve built a busy practice representing clients from all walks of life. As we like to say, ‘no estate is too small or too large’ for us to handle.”

Abbatt’s hands-on approach to family law has been developed over the course of a 38-year legal career that included more than two decades as a partner with the Southfield firm of Fried Saperstein Abbatt PC. 

She got her first taste of the profession in college while working as an intern for renowned Ann Arbor attorney Jean Ledweth King, who throughout her career championed gender equity causes across the nation and was instrumental in the eventual passage of Title IX legislation.

“I always knew that I wanted to go into the law, but having the opportunity to work for Jean King sealed it for me,” said Abbatt of the pioneering attorney who died in 2021 at the age of 97.  “She was an incredibly brilliant attorney who was a strong influence in my life, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity she regularly gave me to accompany her to court. While she gained fame for her legal efforts on behalf of women, what many people don’t realize is that she also maintained a large divorce practice for many years.”

Abbatt’s first internship would lead to an equally valuable opportunity during law school to work at Wayne County Neighborhood Legal Services, where she assisted noted family law attorney Margaret Tobin.

“She also became a role model for me and helped immensely in my early development,” said Abbatt.

But Abbatt readily admits that nothing has influenced her family law practice more than the difficulty of her own divorce, which came at the age of 32 following 12 years of a marriage that produced two children.

“As anyone who has gone through divorce knows full well, it is a heartbreaking experience that alters your life in so many ways – seen and unforeseen,” Abbatt acknowledged. “It’s something that you don’t get over quickly, especially when the future of your children is involved. It can have long-term implications emotionally and financially that can be devastating if you don’t have the necessary support. Experiencing divorce has made me much more sensitive to the needs of my clients who are going through what might be the toughest time of their lives.”

Fortunately for Abbatt, her divorce did not result in any lasting fallout, as she and her former husband remain friends while both are enjoying second marriages.

“It’s a testament to our desire to do what was best for our children, in the short term and the long term,” said Abbatt of the amicable parting of the ways. “There are a multitude of reasons to approach divorce in a civil manner, especially when because of custody issues or proximity you’re going to have regular contact.”

A product of Fordson High School in Dearborn, Abbatt is one of four children. Her father, John Ewing Jr., was a Navy vet who worked as a structural engineer well into his 80s before passing away last year at the age of 93.

“He was a great dad who, like me and my aunt and uncle, attended Fordson High School,” Abbatt related. “As a freshman, he was part of the state championship football team there in 1943.”

Her mother, Janet, was a homemaker and was active in St. Alphonsus Church.

“She died in 2011 at the age of 82 after 61 years of marriage,” said Abbatt. “She was beloved by everyone she knew.”

Abbatt, of course, takes pride in the accomplishments of her two daughters, Casey Zurawski, the lawyer, and Bailey Mattacola, the vice president of Operations for Shinola in Detroit.

Casey, a Dearborn Divine Child product, obtained her bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University before earning her juris doctor from Wayne State Law School. An internship with Wayne County Circuit Judge Kathleen McCarthy, who formerly presided over the Family Division of the court, helped inspire Zurawski to pursue a career in family law.

“Judge McCarthy has been a great inspiration for Casey and has been a role model for her,” said Abbatt. “Of course, as her mom, I’ve very proud of how she has grown as a lawyer and has developed a reputation as a ‘rising star’ in the profession. It’s been a real gift to be able to practice and to partner with her.”

Bailey, who earned an industrial engineering degree from U-M, enjoyed internships with Disney and General Electric en route to her executive position with Shinola, the Detroit-based company that manufactures high-end watches and assorted other lifestyle products. Earlier this year, she was honored by DBusiness magazine as a “30 in Their Thirties” honoree.

A master gardener, Abbatt lives in Franklin, less than a mile from her law office. Her husband, Bill Abbatt, is a patent attorney and shareholder with the Brooks Kushman firm in Southfield.

The couple recently celebrated their silver wedding anniversary, marking the occasion in a special sort of way.

“I arranged for a bagpiper to play in the morning, filling our woods with bagpiping music for a half-hour,” said Abbatt. “We then went to one of our favorite coffee shops at the Congregation Detroit, before we took our granddaughter Norah to see the Oudolf Garden on Belle Isle, to the DAC for lunch, and then to the DIA. It was a perfect day.”


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