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Christopher Sharp QC reports on the new interim report and consultation launched by the Pensions Advisory Group

Christopher Sharp QC (a member of the Pensions Advisory Group) outlines the nature of the new interim report and consultation launched by the PAG on 18th April 2018.

In 2014 Cardiff University’s Nuffield Foundation funded paper ‘Pensions On Divorce: an empirical study’ provided a detailed investigation into how pensions are actually dealt with in financial remedy cases. It found that the use of pension orders was much less than the government had expected (of the 369 court files studied, 80% revealed at least one relevant pension and yet only 14% contained a pension order) and that off setting pensions against non-pension assets was the most commonly used solution. However, it also found that the economic rationality of that approach, the methodology employed and the fairness of the outcomes it produced was far from clear. An example of the unsatisfactory nature of the arguments deployed in such cases can be seen in the case of WS v WS [2015] EWHC 3941 (Fam) which also highlighted the problems where no expert evidence was available. Another example of the Court being unassisted by expert evidence was seen in the series of decisions in Goyal v Goyal. Case law is neither consistent nor very helpful. Most reported cases involve very substantial sums and as a consequence are sometimes of limited assistance in the more mainstream case where funds are more modest.

The Nuffield Foundation has now published the report of an interdisciplinary working group The Pensions Advisory Group (the PAG) which was set up to address these issues, the object being to improve the practice of dealing with pensions on divorce and to assist those divorcing couples who are not fabulously wealthy but nevertheless hold pensions of some value. The PAG is a multi-disciplinary working group jointly chaired by Francis J and HHJ Edward Hess with the support of the Family Justice Council and the President of the Family Division. Its report is entitled ‘Pensions on Divorce Interdisciplinary Working Group’.

The report can be found here: www.nuffieldfoundation.org/pensions-divorce-interdisciplinary-working-group

The intention is to promote feed back by way of wide consultation. The report is divided into two parts. First there is a section entitled “Legal Issues: draft guidance for consultation”. This seeks to set out the law as the PAG see it, to provide information to assist in understanding the issues raised in pension cases and to suggest good practice.

Second there is a section entitled “Valuation and Expert issues: Draft guidance for consultation” The purpose of this part of the report is to consider best practice in respect of the treatment of pensions in divorce proceedings, and to report on any consensus reached among a wide range of experts and lawyers as to how the valuation of pensions in divorce cases should be approached. The aim of this section of the PAG report is to enable a more standardised approach across experts and cases, ensuring better consistency in outcomes for divorcing parties and making these more predictable for individuals, lawyers, experts and judges. The report also considers the circumstances in which it might be beneficial to engage the services of Pensions on Divorce Experts (PODEs).

The report is the result of extensive work and discussion by a large group of experts from a broad range of backgrounds with the immense assistance of Hilary Woodward of Cardiff Law School. It is hoped that it will prompt wider discussion and feedback so that some authoritative guidance can be issued to assist with this difficult area of financial remedy work.

Anyone with involvement in this area of work is encouraged to respond to the consultation.

Family finance barrister, Andrew Commins launches The Financial Remedy Channel website

Specialist family finance barrister, Andrew Commins recently launched his new website ‘The Financial Remedy Channel’. The Financial Remedy Channel provides a dedicated online resource for solicitors, barristers and other professionals specialising in the law of family financial provision. Andrew provides readers with the latest news and procedural updates, judgments and analysis to support and develop any specialist’s practice. The site is designed to be modern, easy-to-navigate with relevant and interesting material, and as far as possible, no stuffy, wordy and dreary content.

To showcase this new website, St John’s Chambers hosted a party and networking event on 27 March in Chambers which saw over 50 attendees including solicitors and financial advisors. During the night, guests had the opportunity to win a fantastic hamper when they subscribed to The Financial Remedy Channel which would allow them to receive the free fortnightly updates. With the success of the launch event the Channel now has over 200 subscribers having only just gone live!

You can also subscribe for free anytime via the website www.financialremedychannel.co.uk.

We wish Andrew every success for The Financial Remedy Channel, which will only enhance and showcase many aspects of his written family finance law.

St John’s Chambers is presented with ‘Regional Set of the Year 2018’ award at Legal 500 UK Bar Awards

Chief Executive Derek Jenkins and Rob Bocock, Practice Manager at St John’s  Chambers attended the Legal 500 UK Bar 2018 Awards ceremony at The Royal Exchange in London on 22nd February to collect our prestigious award for ‘Regional Set of the Year’.

Derek JenkinsEach year Legal 500 carry out in-depth research across the whole of the UK legal sector to identify the best sets out there, and this award clearly recognises St John’s as a stand out national set.

Thank you to all of our referees for their on-going support, without you this achievement would not have been possible. To view the full results please click here.

Our CEO, Derek Jenkins adds, “We are delighted to have won this prestigious national award which reflects the great work St John’s has achieved and recognises Chambers’ as a leading set.”

St John’s Chambers delighted to announce Circuit Judge appointment of Susan Jacklin QC

Susan JacklinWe are delighted to announce that Susan Jacklin QC, Associate Member of our Family Practice Group, has been appointed by Her Majesty The Queen to be a Circuit Judge to the South Eastern Circuit, based at West London County Court with effect from 12 March 2018.

Susan has specialised in family law for 20 years; called to the Bar in 1980; took Silk in 2006 and was appointed as a Recorder in 1999. She has vast experience of dealing with a wide range of people and cases, not just on the Western Circuit but in South Wales, London and Birmingham. Her practice includes the full range of family finance work and children. In private law disputes she is able to advise and represent clients on finance and children issues.  Clients value the continuity of relationship between the two forms of dispute.

We congratulate Her Honour Judge Jacklin QC on such an amazing achievement and wish her all the best in her new appointment.

Christopher Sharp QC publishes Family Affairs Financial Remedy update Nov’ 17 – Feb ‘18

Christopher Sharp QC, Member of our Family Practice Group, publishes the first of his 2018 Financial Remedy updates written for the FLBA’s ‘Family Affairs’ magazine. He regularly reviews the more important recent financial remedy cases during the course of the year with termly updates. All updates are available to download from Christopher’s online website profile and have also been published within FLBA’s ‘Family Affairs’.

To view the full article please click the following link: Family Affairs February 2018 | Nov’ 17 – Feb ‘18 Edition | Financial Remedy update

If you would like to instruct Christopher on a related matter please contact his clerks: 0117 923 4720 or email

St John’s Chambers Family Team Hosts “Fantastic Course”

Nick MillerYesterday; Tuesday 6 February 2018, our Family Finance Team along with a Member from our Commercial & Chancery Team and two external speakers from Tanners and Milsted Langdon spoke at our ‘Constructive use of business structures in Financial Remedy Proceedings’ full day conference at the NOVOTEL City Centre, Bristol.

The day comprised of discussions on cases in which one or both of the partners in a divorce own a business and dealt with such issues as whether it is possible for both parties to continue to run the business after divorce using dividends to pay maintenance, shareholders’ agreements and S.31 (7A to 7F) Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. The talks encompassed in the day as presented by our speakers included: “But it’s my business (and always has been)”; So how should I structure my limited company or LLP?; Businesses in financial relief proceedings; Shareholder Agreements, Unfair Prejudice and Derivative Actions; Making divorce less taxing; Nuptial and Marital Agreements.

St John’s Chambers speakers included: Christopher Sharp QC, Nick Miller, Zoë Saunders, Charlie Newington-Bridges and our two guest speakers; Simon Denton, Partner at Milsted Langdon and Peter Marrow, Partner at Tanners Solicitors. We were delighted to be able to open the conference to both solicitors and accountants as talks included information and updates on eventual sharing of the sale proceeds of a business combined with cessation of maintenance.

Delegates gave excellent feedback including:

“Very helpful day thank you – linking those areas and highlighting this was really useful.”

 “Great thank you! Really useful and very well thought through as a comprehensive day’s course.”

 “Excellent – well worth the trip from South Wales!”

You can follow the live tweets from the day by searching #SJCFamily2018 on Twitter.

Zoë Saunders elected as a bencher of The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn

Congratulations to our Family Practice Group Member, Zoë Saunders who has been elected as a bencher of The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn. Zoë has extensive experience of cohabitation disputes involving ToLATA and Applications under Schedule 1 of the Children Act, and is often asked to advise both in writing and in conference as well as acting in disputed cases in the High Court, County Court and before the land registry adjudicator. She has expertise in financial remedy cases involving multiple properties, trusts of land, complex pensions and insolvency. In addition to her tenancy in Chambers , Zoë has been a Member of the Gray’s Inn barristers committee and an advocacy trainer for the Inn for a number of years as well.

Zoë is a strong advocate who you know will always give clients sensible, realistic advice but won’t shy away from pursuing challenging routes.” “Very thorough, good on her feet and clients love her.Chambers UK, Family/Matrimonial (2018)

To instruct Zoë on a Family matter please contact her clerks on 0117 923 4720 or email

Sophie Smith-Holland wins award for Bar Council’s Law Reform Essay Competition 2017

Sophie Smith-Holland, pupil barrister within our Family Practice Group, has won the “Highly Commended” £500 prize for the Bar Council’s Law Reform Essay Competition 2017. Entrants were asked to submit an essay no longer than 3000 words identifying and making a case for a law reform that is desirable, practical and useful. The winning essay titled “It’s not you… and it’s not me, either”: The case for no-fault divorce in England and Wales” will be published on the Bar Council’s website shortly, following her success Sophie will be attending the Law Reform Lecture in London to collect the award on the 15 December 2017.

The Bar Council’s Law Reform Essay Competition is an annual event aimed at developing and fostering an interest in law reform in pupils, law students, CPE/GDL students, BPTC students and those aiming for a career at the Bar.The Bar Council 2017

Many congratulations to Sophie on this achievement

St John’s Chambers welcomes Family Law and Court of Protection barrister Caroline Elford

Called to the bar in 2002 Caroline Elford joins St John’s Chambers’ Family Practice Group from Queen Square, Bristol.

Caroline is a specialist family practitioner who practises in all areas of family law with a strong emphasis on care proceedings and a special interest in matters of family finance. Her practice in this area has given her a detailed knowledge of the appropriate procedural law and she is known for her effectiveness as an advocate and a lawyer in technical applications. She also takes instructions in respect of Court of Protection matters.

Judi Evans, Head of the Family Practice Group said: “We are delighted to welcome Caroline to St John’s Chambers. Caroline adds further strength and depth to our Family Team and will ensure we can continue to offer our clients fantastic cover at all levels – she is well known and highly experienced, and has proved herself to be popular with instructing solicitors and lay clients alike.”

If you would like to discuss instructing Caroline, please contact her clerks on 0117 923 4720 or email

View profile: Caroline Elford

St John’s Chambers Family Practice achieves a Band 1 ranking as a set for the Western Circuit in Chambers and Partners UK 2018

St John’s Chambers Children and Finance team is said to be a highly regarded set which offers an impressive group of family barristers with a fine track record in an array of complex disputes. Our Members are frequently instructed in financial remedy cases involving international assets for married and unmarried couples. The set also remains a strong choice for private law children proceedings and jurisdictional disputes in relation to private law children. One satisfied instructing solicitor states: “They are a strong chambers with some very robust, heavyweight individuals, and an excellent reputation, both in relation to finance and children work.”

Our two family silks, Christopher Sharp QC and Kathryn Skellorn QC have been recognised within the Chambers and Partners UK 2018 guide, Christopher, ranked as a ‘Star Individual’ “is worthy of every accolade as he has superb client handling skills and a second-to-none intellect. “His attention to detail and grasp of information in a case is second to none. His ability to forensically dissect the most complicated finance case and present it in a clear and persuasive way is to be marvelled at.” Christopher is hugely respected for his experience of representing high net worth clients in major ancillary relief and TOLATA cases. He regularly acts in matters with an international element to them.

With Kathryn Skellorn, achieving a Band 3 rankings and described as “She is just the full package: she is exceptionally bright, she has a very good demeanour with clients, and her advocacy is very persuasive.” “Her forensic approach to cases is seriously impressive.” Kathryn specialises in handling complicated children work in both a public and a private context. Her cases frequently concern highly sensitive and difficult issues, as well as complex medical elements. A number of them concern brain trauma, torture, sexual abuse and child death. She also regularly handles disputes regarding surrogacy and same-sex parenthood.

One of our juniors, Jack Harris has been noted as an ‘Up and Coming’ individual who is highlighted for his strong work in family finance. “He is hot on the button, presents well to clients and gets great results.”

In addition, a number of our juniors within the family practice team have been equally successful in the public law, private law and finance spheres; Nick Miller, senior junior whose practice at the Bar is bolstered by his ten years’ previous experience as a solicitor has been ranked as a Band 1 junior. Andrew Commins, known for representing high net worth clients on significant matrimonial finance issues, and experience at handling cases involving pensions, companies and trusts and Susan Hunter, Head of Chambers, who focuses her practice on financial remedy issues and is especially skilled at advising on cases involving third-party interests, whilst also acting for clients in private children cases have both been listed as Band 2 juniors.

Six more of our juniors have also been ranked within family/matrimonial in the Chambers and Partners UK 2018 guide; Jody Atkinson focuses his practice on matrimonial finance issues, and is skilled at taking on inheritance and probate cases, whilst being active in matters related to child support. In public and private law; Catriona Duthie, practises across the full spectrum of family law matters, and is best known for her work acting for clients in private and public children law matters. Judi Evans, who heads up the family practice group, enjoys a solid reputation for her work in the public sphere including care, particularly on non-accidental injury cases. Richard Norman acts in a wide variety of family law matters, including those concerning financial remedies following relationship breakdowns and complicated private children cases. Lucy Reed specialises in children work, and is able to act for clients on a wide variety of public and private cases. She regularly advises on matters involving challenging or vulnerable parties, such as parents with substance abuse or mental health issues, and children with disabilities and learning difficulties. Zoë Saunders is best known for her work on cohabitation disputes, including TOLATA and Schedule 1 applications. She is also skilled at taking on matrimonial finance litigation, handling cases concerning pension, insolvency and land issues.

If you would like to instruct any of our family barristers, please contact their clerks: or 0117 923 4720

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