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

St John’s Chambers providing ‘London-quality advice locally’ with ‘a good breadth and depth of expertise’

We are delighted to announce that St John’s Chambers has been recommended as a Top Tier Set in the Western Circuit’s Leading Set by The Legal 500 United Kingdom 2017.

For one solicitor, St John’s Chambers is ‘one of the leading sets in the South West’, providing ‘London-quality advice locally’ with ‘a good breadth and depth of expertise’. We specialise in civil matters and have been noted for our strength in commercial, construction, family, personal injury, clinical negligence, regulatory and public law matters. Inquests and inquiries is another key area for our Chambers’.

Three of our QCs are listed in the Western Circuits “Leading silks” list, The Legal 500 United Kingdom 2017’s guide to outstanding silks nationwide.

Christopher Sharp QC, Family and children law & personal injury and clinical negligence, “He has a brilliant mind that understands the intricacies of any case.”

Leslie Blohm QC, Commercial, banking, insolvency, Chancery law and Property, “He is very grounded but has an air of absolute authority.”

Kathryn Skellorn QC, Family and children law, “Clients are in awe of her.”

In addition to the success of our QC’s, 38 of our barristers are listed in the “Leading juniors” list, The Legal 500 United Kingdom 2017’s guide to outstanding juniors nationwide.

To view further details on our Chambers’ listings please click here

Financial Remedy update: Summer edition | Latest article from Christopher Sharp QC

CChristopher Sharphristopher Sharp QC, who is acknowledged by Chambers UK as one of only five star Silks in Family Law in the country has written an article for the Summer edition of the FLBA’s newsletter, Family Affairs.

The article continues Christopher’s regular reviews of the more important recent financial remedy cases, this one covering the period from March 2017 to June 2017.

Download article: Family Affairs June 2017 | Summer Edition | Financial Remedy update (04.03.17 – 13.06.17)

“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. ‘He’s brilliant on the detail, very clever, very thorough, and he doesn’t give up – he’s a classic QC.’ “Chambers UK (2017).

View profile: Christopher Sharp QC 


The Pension Advisory Group: developing guidance on pensions on divorce

Under the leadership and joint chairmanship of Mr Justice Francis and His Honour Judge Edward Hess, the “Pension Advisory Group” (“PAG”) has been formed.

With the imprimatur of The President of the Family Division, the PAG’s brief is to conduct an interdisciplinary review of how pensions are treated on divorce and to produce a Family Justice Council pension guide for the profession and divorcing public. It is hoped that this may encourage a consistency of practice which is currently lacking.

As with the Family Justice Council and its guidance on financial needs, the PAG has no authority to change the law through any of its publications and it would not purport to do so, merely to seek to explain the current law and to facilitate best practice.

The PAG comprises a multidisciplinary group of judges, academics, actuaries, financial experts, family and pension lawyers drawn from each branch of the legal profession and a family mediator (please click on link below to read full list of members). The group has representatives of both the Family Law Bar Association and Resolution. In addition to involving several of the well-known experts who practice in this field of family law, the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries has appointed a representative to be part of the PAG and to provide an “outside” perspective.

Led by Hilary Woodward, the academics’ contribution to the project, funded by a Nuffield Foundation grant, will assist in ensuring that the work of PAG is firmly underpinned by objective and academically-defensible methods and analysis, and rooted in what is known from research about the longer term financial consequences of divorce.

The PAG held its first meeting on the 12 June 2017 and aims to conclude its work by the end of 2018.

Your contribution is sought
To inform its work as fully as possible, the PAG would be very interested to hear from members of the judiciary, legal, actuarial and financial professionals, and representatives of special interest groups.

To stay within manageable bounds the PAG’ s membership is necessarily limited. However, the PAG is keen to create a big tent, to listen carefully and engage widely. It hopes to receive contributions from those who may be able to provide insights on the way that the law is currently working and how practice might be improved.

If you are aware of situations where, to your mind, pension issues on divorce have not been resolved in a satisfactory fashion please let us know!

You may get in touch, in the first instance, by emailing Hilary Woodward at

To read about the PAG and its work, please click here: The Pension Advisory Group – 2017

Christopher Sharp QC, family law Silk at St John’s Chambers, is one of the legal members of the newly formed Pensions Advisory Group. He is acknowledged by Chambers UK Bar Directory as one of only five ‘star’ Silks in Family Law in the country.

St John’s family team host Annual Children’s Conference 2017

This month our family team hosted their Annual Children’s Conference 2017 at the Hilton Doubletree, Bristol, kindly sponsored by Wesleyan. The day began with an introduction from Abigail Bond, Head of our children’s team.

Kathryn Skellorn QC began with a discussion of scientific testing and strategy for family lawyers, items were addressed such as equality within the sampling considerations for melanin content and challenging hair strand test results.
This talk was followed on by Beth Tarleton from the University of Bristol who presented an in depth look at supporting parents with learning difficulties. She covered many areas such as good practice, changes in professionals’ views and level of concern for the babies as well as certain specific needs in relation to safeguarding procedures for the children of learning disabled parents.

Delegates were then treated to an introduction from Australia born Anna Rickards, Head of Practice and Learning at Pause Project; Pause – creating space to change. Anna began with a pause film telling the real story of one of Pause’s women in her own words.
Following Anna, DNA Legal’s, Dr Breidi gave an introduction into the companies’ diverse means of testing to include alcohol hair testing and fingernail testing, primarily used to aid criminal matters in the family courts. This talk was followed by an update on recent developments in public law from Judi Evans, Head of our Family Practice Group.
After the lunch break Julia Belyavin, covered the recent developments in private law which included specific relocation cases. Lucy Reed then highlighted guidance on practical ways to secure a child’s anonymity for judges whilst addressing the changing perspectives on transparency in the family court.

Concluding the day, Asha Pearce-Groves focused on the law and procedure relating to the Human Rights Act which included some of the most recent updates. And Abigail Bond provided a useful guide on the Court of Protection for children lawyers.

The Conference was a huge success, attended by over 50 delegates and received fantastic feedback; you can review the live tweets from the day by searching #childrensconf2017 on twitter. “Good value for money”, “Informative, well run course”, “Very successful event”.

Downloadable notes: care proceedings and damages for breach of human rights 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from everyone at St John’s Chambers


Over the festive period, Chambers will be closed from 4.00pm on Friday, 23rd December and will re-open from 10.00am until 4.00pm on Thursday 29th December through to Friday 30th December.

We will open again for normal business hours on Tuesday, 3th January 2017.

For any emergency enquiries, please see our out of hours numbers.

Family Finance Team provide useful update to Bristol lawyers

Zoe SaundersOver 30 lawyers from in and around Bristol attended our family finance team’s 1 hour hot topic seminar on Wednesday, 30th November.

Leading Juniors Zoë Saunders, Andrew Commins  along with the latest addition to the team Bethany Hardwick presented talks on spousal maintenance, variation of settlements and non-matrimonial property.

Lawyers attending the event included Barcan+Kirby, Burges Andrew ComminsSalmon, The Family Law Company, Simpson Millar, Wards Solicitors and others.

The event has been described as “Fantastic value for money” and “Really helpful, focused and informative.”

St John’s Chambers’ Family Team has recently been ranked inBethany Hardwick
Band 1 of Chambers UK, they are described as; “A very strong Bristol-based team capable of representing clients across the full spectrum of family law matters. Offers a robust matrimonial finance practice and has also built up significant experience in private and public ADR proceedings. The set is also highly regarded for its forward-thinking approach to client service.”
Chambers UK, Family (2017)

If you missed this seminar you can download the course notes here:

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