St John’s Chambers is one of the leading sets on the Western Circuit for public and private child law work.”

The Legal 500 2024, Family: Children and Domestic Violence

Voted ‘Regional Family Law Chambers of the Year’ at Family Law Awards 2023

Renowned for their expertise in private law children cases, our barristers act for parents and other adults involved in difficult disputes relating to children, and for the child (either directly or through their court appointed Guardian). Our barristers have expertise across the full spectrum of private law children matters, from making, varying or enforcing child arrangements orders, to cases involving leaving or removing from the jurisdiction and international abduction, to matters relating to surrogacy, alternative family structures and religious upbringing.

Our barristers are often instructed in cases concerning alleged parental alienation and intractable child arrangement disputes (where the parent with care is opposed to any form of contact between the child and the non-resident parent). A large part of the team’s work involves complicated cases where there is a need for a ‘fact-finding hearing’, such as where there have been allegations of domestic or sexual abuse of the child or other parent. Our team are experienced in dealing with the additional issues that may arise in such cases where one or more party is unrepresented.

Representing clients at all levels of court, the broad spectrum of expertise within the team means we can provide a high level of service to the client with the right barrister. Members are also highly experienced in representing with sensitivity those who may be vulnerable through mental health difficulties and/or significantly affected by the stress of the proceedings.

Our clerking team are always accessible, and take care and time to understand the case or the individual personalities involved when recommending individual barristers. Read more.

Public Access

Some members of the team are also available to act, where appropriate, for members of the public, under the Public Access scheme. Read more.

Publications and training

The team includes published authors, members who run their own Family Law blogs, and members who write regularly for Family Law Week, the Family Law journal and for other legal publications.

The team also offers a series of free CPD-accredited training events in Chambers, and members regularly conduct bespoke seminars at solicitors’ offices, or at other venues throughout the UK. Keeping up to date with family law and sharing knowledge is really important to us. For more information, please contact our family clerks on 0117 923 4720 or email [email protected].

Children Private Law Team

Christopher Sharp QC

Christopher Sharp KC

  • Call: 1975
  • Silk: 1999

With many reported cases, Christopher is frequently instructed on appeals to the Court of Appeal. He has extensive experience in high-value financial remedy, ToLATA and Schedule 1 cases, including those with a foreign element, many of which are...

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Lucy Reed KC

  • Call: 2002
  • Silk: 2023

Lucy is a family law specialist and has practised in family law throughout her professional career. Her practice now spans all areas of children work. She often acts in complex, multi-party or high conflict intractable private law disputes....

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Susan Hunter

Susan Hunter

  • Call: 1985

Susan is a children law expert with 30 years’ experience in children private law cases. She is involved in parental and wider familial disputes concerning all aspects of child care including contact, residence, parental alienation, education, removal from...

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Sarah Philimore

Sarah Phillimore

  • Call: 1994

Sarah has represented parents and Guardians in private law proceedings since 1999. She has undertaken training as both a civil law and family mediator in 2009 and 2012 which has provided further useful skills in an area of...

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Judi Evans

  • Call: 1996

Judi is Head of our Family & Divorce team, and specialises in children private law proceedings where she is instructed in parental alienation, allegations of physical and sexual abuse, and complex jurisdictional issues. She is commended for her passionate style...

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Abigail Bond

Abigail Bond

  • Call: 1999

Abigail specialises in law involving children and is Head of the Children Law team. She has considerable experience of care proceedings in which she represents local authorities, parents and children. She has experience in a wide range of...

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Delia Thornton

Delia Thornton

  • Call: 1999

Delia is a specialist family law barrister and mediator. She has a particular interest in care proceedings where she represents parents, and guardians. Her work load involves Fact-Finding hearings concerning allegations of domestic violence, sexual abuse and non-accidental...

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Zahid Hussain

Zahid Hussain

  • Call: 2001

Zahid is an experienced family law barrister with a practice encompassing all areas of Children Law. He frequently represents parents, family members, Guardians, the Official Solicitor and local authority’s in care proceedings at all tiers of Court across the South West, often...

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Caroline Elford

Caroline Elford

  • Call: 2002

Caroline is a specialist family practitioner who practises in all areas of family law with a strong emphasis on children private law cases. Her practice in this area has given her a detailed knowledge of the appropriate procedural...

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Julia Belyavin

Julia Belyavin

  • Call: 2003

Julia’s private law practice focuses on more complex cases where there are issues such as significant domestic abuse or neglect, factitious or induced illness or forced marriage. She also has extensive experience of international relocation cases and those...

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Zoë Saunders

  • Call: 2003

Zoë has extensive experience of private law children cases at all levels of the Family Court and in the High Court. She is one of the authors for the Dictionary of Private Children Law (2024). She has particular...

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Olivia Pike

Olivia Pike

  • Call: 2008

Olivia acts on behalf of parents and children (separately or by their Guardians) in private law cases, particularly those involving complex child arrangements disputes. She appears in cases where there are serious safeguarding concerns necessitating fact-finding hearings. She...

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Richard Norman

Richard Norman

  • Call: 2009

Richard accepts instructions in children private law disputes under the Children Act 1989. These are often complex and include allegations of sexual, physical and emotional abuse to both adults and children, alienation, along with issues requiring expert evidence...

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Jack Harris

  • Call: 2012

Jack has over 8 years’ experience in representing parents in private law disputes about their children, ranging from disputes about child arrangements to relocation and to schooling, to name but a few, and happily accepts instructions where Children...

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Oliver Riley

Oliver Riley

  • Call: 2013

Oliver has considerable experience of acting in private law children disputes. He regularly represents parties at all stages of the process, including within complex fact finding hearings with issues such as parental alienation and where there are concerns...

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Asha Groves NEW

Asha Groves

  • Call: 2013

Asha is regularly instructed in private law proceedings from the initial stages through to fact finding and final hearings. Asha has experience of more complex cases from her time working for a Local Authority on cases in which...

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Ryan Morgan

  • Call: 2017

Ryan regularly represents parents and children in private law children disputes. He takes a problem solving approach to these cases which ensures that conflict is reduced as much as possible for his clients. Ryan has also gained extensive...

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Bethany Hardwicke

Bethany Scarsbrook

  • Call: 2014

Bethany is experienced in all types of applications under section 8 of the Children Act 1989, including child arrangement orders (contact and residence disputes), specific issue orders and prohibited steps orders. She has appeared in her own right...

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Sophie Smith Holland

Sophie Smith-Holland

  • Call: 2015

Sophie is regularly instructed for all types of hearings, including FHDRAs, DRAs, directions hearings, fact-finding hearings and final hearings. Sophie has particular experience of representing parties in cases involving serious allegations and concerns in respect of domestic abuse...

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Harriet Dudbridge

Harriet Dudbridge

  • Call: 2015

Harriet has joined chambers after her completion of pupillage under the supervision of Susan Hunter. Harriet joins St John’s Chambers as a Justice First Fellow, a scheme devised by the Legal Education Foundation for the next generation of...

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Sarah Fincham

  • Call: 2018

Sarah’s experience in private children proceedings includes contact disputes, specific issue and prohibited steps applications, fact-finding hearings and relocation applications. She has represented parents and children at all stages from FHDRA to final hearing. In August 2021, Sarah...

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Dominik Morton

  • Call: 2018

Dominik has recently joined St John’s Chambers Family & Divorce team, formerly a barrister at Queen Square Chambers. Dominik is praised by many of his lay and professional clients as well as members of the judiciary for his...

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Zoey White

Zoey White

  • Call: 2018

Zoey is a specialist family law barrister with a particular focus on matters relating to private law children disputes. She is regularly instructed to represent clients in all types of applications under s.8 Children Act 1989 and is...

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Georgina Swinglehurst

Georgina Swinglehurst

  • Call: 2019

Georgina joined Chambers as a tenant in October 2023 following the successful completion of her specialist family pupillage under the supervision of Zoë Saunders. During pupillage, Georgina observed a number of high-value claims for financial relief, involving complicated...

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Vivien Croly

  • Call: 2019

Vivien joined Chambers as a tenant in October 2022 following the successful completion of her specialist family pupillage under the supervision of Zoë Saunders. During pupillage, Vivien observed a number of high value claims for financial relief involving...

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Kate Pearson

  • Call: 2019

Kate is building a broad practice as a specialist family law barrister, and accepts instructions in the following areas: Private Law Children Act matters Divorce and Financial Remedies Schedule 1 Children Act 1989 Part IV Family Law Act...

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james adams

James Adams

  • Call: 2021

James specialises in public and private children law. He has experience dealing with a broad spectrum of issues relating to children’s welfare including serious child sexual abuse, self-harm, psychiatric illness, substance misuse, coercive and controlling behaviour, alienating behaviours and...

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Diana

Diana M. Panizzon-Pineda

  • Call: 2021

Diana has a busy practice encompassing all areas of children law. She also accepts instructions on injunction applications under the Family Law Act 1996. Diana represents parents, children, local authorities, and extended family members. She is regularly instructed...

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Glen Pritchard

Glen Pritchard

  • Call: 2022

Glen joined our Family & Divorce team in 2022 following a successful career as a solicitor working for a Local Authority where he focussed on children law, representing them in a range of hearing from contested interim removal...

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Directory Quotes

All of the barristers at St John’s are extremely capable of dealing with all types of matters, from simple cases through to incredibly complicated and contentious ones.”

Chambers UK 2023, Family & Matrimonial

The clerks are always available at the end of the phone or by email. If any issue arises they will go above and beyond in order to find a solution so that there is minimal difficulty to the instructing solicitor. A truly faultless service.”

Chambers UK 2023, Family & Matrimonial (Client Service)

St John’s Chambers is very efficient and counsel are exceptional.”

Legal 500 2023, Family & Children Law (Client Service)

St John’s Chambers is a very strong family set, housing a team which covers all aspects of family law.”

Legal 500 2023, Family & Children Law

St John’s Chambers has a lengthy roster of silks and juniors with invaluable expertise in a wide range of family and matrimonial matters. Members are particularly skilled at handling cross-jurisdictional matters for high net worth individuals, especially those concerning the division of assets as part of divorce proceedings. The barristers are frequently called upon to assist with the most complex public children mandates encompassing sexual abuse, brain injury and trafficking matters, and also take on private work such as Children Act proceedings. ‘It is an excellent chambers with strength at all levels,’ one interviewee notes.”

Chambers UK 2022, Family/Matrimonial

Luke Hodgson, practice manager, gives a service which feels tailored to the individual. This is mirrored by his team, whose response times to a request are always impressive. The chambers is very organised and very well run. The clerks go above and beyond and are very quick to respond to enquiries. The clerking team are friendly, approachable and extremely efficient, always exceeding expectations.”

Chambers UK 2022, Family/Matrimonial (Client Service)

Excellent set’ St John’s Chambers is ‘a go-to’ chambers in the South West for hard working, knowledgeable and good quality barristers across the board in the arena of family law.”

Legal 500 2022, Family and Children Law

St John’s Chambers has a lengthy roster of silks and juniors with invaluable expertise in a wide range of family and matrimonial matters. Members are particularly skilled at handling cross-jurisdictional matters for high net worth individuals, especially those concerning the division of assets as part of divorce proceedings. The barristers are frequently called upon to assist with the most complex public children mandates encompassing sexual abuse, brain injury and trafficking matters, and also take on private work such as Children Act proceedings. ‘St John’s is our first choice of chambers on the Western Circuit. What sets them apart is the breadth and depth of their membership,” one source says.’ “

Chambers UK 2021, Family/Matrimonial

St John’s Chambers is home to a large team of family barristers specialising in high-profile public and private family matters on the Western Circuit.”

Legal 500 2021, Family and Children Law

Luke Hodgson is the practice manager for the family team and Elaine Jewell-Moore, the family law practice team leader, is described as ‘particularly great, prompt and efficient.’ “

Chambers UK 2021, Family & Divorce (Client Service)

Client Quotes

“St Johns Chambers is one of the fore-front chambers offering counsel for Public Childcare. The clerks are particularly helpful and will go above and beyond to find cover for hearings at short notice.”

Legal 500 client feedback

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