Firms To Watch: Family

Rachel Adams heads the family law practice at DFA Law, and along with fellow partner, Paula Futer specialises in high net worth divorce and financial settlements. Kelly Willmott is the key contact for private children law.  
HCR Hewitsons made a notable addition in May 2022 with the hire of Sally Robinson, formerly of Shoosmiths LLP and Wilson Browne, where she led the family team.

Family in East Midlands

Geldards LLP

Geldards LLP has ‘an exceptional team of lawyers, who can deliver excellent advice on a wide range of family issues’, focusing on medium to high net worth financial remedy cases, particularly those involving businesses, inherited assets, pre-nuptial deeds and same sex marriage and civil partnership breakdowns. Based in Derby, Fiona Apthorpe chairs the family law practice, which is strengthened by Claire Dean‘s expertise in financial remedy cases, children’s cases and those involving agricultural estates. For high net worth cases, Jane Cowley is the lead counsel. Highly recommended senior associates Natalie Haydon-Yeung, Janine Hobday and Kate Keenan are the other key figures.

Practice head(s):

Fiona Apthorpe

Other key lawyers:

Claire Dean; Jane Cowley; Natalie Haydon-Yeung; Kate Keenan; Janine Hobday


‘I would really like to mention Kate Keenan, Claire Dean and Jane Cowley who are my team. They are all very skilled family solicitors who balance the legal situation with the needs of their client.’

‘Very capable team with extensive knowledge across all areas covered with their expertise.’

‘Geldards have an exceptional team of lawyers, who can deliver excellent advice on a wide range of family issues. They assist mid-high net worth individuals in complex financial and children cases’

‘Fiona Apthorpe has an excellent approach and manner, also she can crack even the most difficult cases as a mediator. She is so knowledgeable Claire Dean is an excellent specialist in private children matters, Natalie Hayden Yeung also deserves recognition’

‘Jane Cowley has looked after our clients extremely well. All of our mutual clients very happy with the quality and speedy service received and advice provided’

‘Geldards family team are the go to family law specialists in the East Midlands. The team has a strength in depth that is comparable to no other family law team in the region. From partners to associates, the quality and level of service provided is second to none.’

‘Claire Dean, a partner in the family law team is a ferocious advocate, who will protect her client’s interests until the end. At the start of proceedings, Claire will identify a strategy and lead the client through matters so that they have a clear view as to the way forward.’

‘Geldards have an exceptional family department, with highly competent lawyers at every level from the most junior up to partner level. Excellent legal advice at very reasonable prices.’

John Hooper & Co

Well established private family law boutique, John Hooper & Co is ‘very personal and professional with a friendly and sympathetic approach.’ The team advises on, among others, complex and high net worth divorce cases, TOLATA cases and conducts court advocacy on behalf of clients. Senior associates Yasmine Roff and Stephanie Clifton are recommended for financial remedy work, pre-nuptial agreements and private Children Act matters. Founding partner John Hooper has a huge wealth of experience’ and as an experienced New Zealand barrister, he has a strong following among international clients. He specialises in high net worth divorce and financial disputes. Dominic Lee moved to Sills & Betteridge LLP in May 2023.


Practice head(s):

John Hooper

Other key lawyers:

Yasmine Roff


‘I have every confidence in instructions that come from John Hooper. Their lawyers are experienced and practical.’

‘John has a huge wealth of experience. The team operate well together, referring questions to him where appropriate. They were able to offer advice, often quite strategic and clever, and listen to my concerns too.’

‘John Hooper & Co offer a small firm level of indication with a large firm level of service but still at low fees.’

‘Stephanie Clifton: Stephanie is a highly competent & experienced family lawyer. Her advice is always very good and her case management very good. Yasmin Roff; Yasmin is a junior Solictor whose competence makes her seem far more senior. A very safe pair of hands.’

‘Yasmine Roff was very good and reassuring. Yasmine’s undertakings, communications and guidance was excellent and at all times I felt that my interests were being safeguarded and that Yasmine was representing me to the best of her capabilities. Yasmine is experienced in this legal area and I also felt that the costs were managed well and Yasmine attempted to keep the costs down to what was needed.’

‘A very personal and professional firm with a friendly and sympathetic approach’

‘A small specialist set of solicitors who are very approachable and knowledgeable. They have their client’s at the heart of what they do.’

‘Stephanie Clifton is a future superstar in the making. She works exceptionally hard for her clients, going above and beyond. She has real eye for detail.’

Nelsons Solicitors Limited

The ‘superb family law team’ at Nelsons Solicitors Limited is led by Emma Davies in Nottingham, Melanie Bridgen in Derby and Lisa-Marie Leanders in Leicester. The firm stands outs for its specialist expertise in international children law, surrogacy, deprivation of liberty, unravelling trusts, and international disputes over children, assets and jurisdiction. Bridgen is known for her work with children proceedings and domestic abuse, while Leanders is experienced handling high net worth financial cases, often involving complicated financial structures, trusts and inherited assets. Divorce specialist Davies, together with Gareth Protheroe and Gayle Rowley have a very good reputation in Children law and care proceedings.


Practice head(s):

Emma Davies; Melanie Bridgen; Lisa -Marie Leanders; Gareth Protheroe

Other key lawyers:

Gayle Rowley


‘Melanie Bridgen is a well prepared advocate undertaking a lot of public law work frequently instructed by Guardians with whom she is very popular because of both her manner and child focussed approach. She has also developed something of a specialism in in cases with an international dimension.

‘Superb family law team, class A and the absolute go to in children law and financial relief on divorce. They far outweigh their competitors in every aspect. The people provide hands on support and client care from the outset concentrating on strategy and approach. Given their wealth of experience, they are financially competitive.’

‘Melanie Bridgen, partner, is an exceptional solicitor, she has all of the qualities that people desire in a solicitor: client care that is compassionate yet robust, excellent preparation. She is a phenomenal solicitor and knows children law like the back of her hand. She stands out above all other partners in other solicitor’s firms.’

‘Gayle Rowley – Gayle is very client-focussed and makes herself readily available to discuss matters with clients and Counsel. Gayle cares very deeply about her clients.’

‘Gareth Protheroe leads a highly capable and approachable team with all of his usual flair, focus and calm assurance.’

‘Gareth Protheroe is a highly efficient and down-to-Earth solicitor, with an assured approach which belies his relative youth.’

‘Melanie Bridgen has provided an excellent service throughout an extended family court process. She has been professional, highly empathic, and had impeccable knowledge and professional experience. Melanie has been a brilliant advocate for my case – and is highly responsive.’

‘Nelsons are an well-established and highly respected firm, deservedly so. They cover a number of disciplines with the utmost professionalism. They are a pleasure to deal with and prominent in the local legal community.’

Shakespeare Martineau LLP

Shakespeare Martineau LLP is ‘one of the best regarded firms in the East Midlands’ combining expertise in financial disputes arising upon a relationship breakdown and cases involving child arrangements orders and jurisdictional issues. Practice head Katherine Marshall and director Sonia Bachu have several decades worth of experience in high value settlement cases involving family businesses, inherited wealth and pensions. ‘One to watch for the future’, senior associate Stephanie Kyriacou is noted for divorce proceedings, children matters and resolving  financial issues.

Practice head(s):

Katherine Marshall

Other key lawyers:

Sonia Bachu; Stephanie Kyriacou


‘The firm is one of the best regarded in the East Midlands; for good reason. The client care and advice given by its solicitors is of the highest quality. I am always impressed when I receive briefs from the firm and I know that the clients are always given detailed and appropriate advice. The client care and attention to detail is exceptional.’

‘Stephanie Kyriacou – Stephanie is detailed and thoughtful when dealing with cases. She identifies the salient issues and is always well-prepared and her preparation of cases is of a very high quality. She always makes herself available for clients and Counsel and she is very highly regarded amongst the legal professionals in this area; for good reason.’

‘Shakespeare Martineau are a delight to work with. The whole team work very well together meaning that cases are always well covered. The advice is high quality, tactically astute and very good value for money.

‘Katherine Marshall is an excellent lawyer. She is fierce in seeking the best deal for her client, but all the time providing down to earth advice.’

‘Strong team in Leicester, great depth of knowledge, sensible and caring. Always a please to have them on the other side and you know that you will be able to work with them to resolve issues.’

‘Katherine Marshall is approachable, knowledgeable, pragmatic and very good with clients. A good collaborative lawyer who considers the bigger picture

‘Stephanie Kyriacou is a good junior and one to watch for the future’

‘Shakespeare Martineau is very well represented in the East Midlands (and the West Midlands) for family work. They have a solid reputation for giving clear, practical and realistic advice.’

Sills & Betteridge LLP

‘Extremely experienced in their field with a wealth of talent’ Sills & Betteridge LLP‘s sizeable family law group is led by Helen Derry, a specialist mediation and in pre and post nuptial agreements. As head of the emergency team, Chrystal Theofanous is instructed in domestic abuse, children’s law, international child abduction, forced marriage prevention and complex care proceedings. Lincoln’s Mo Hayes and Jessica Firth-Brown are both well respected children law specialists. In Nothampton, ‘exceptional’ Siobhan Thompson and Nicholas Flattgo beyond duty every time to ensure that the children have best representation.’ Senior associate Ailsa Tennant is also noted for divorce, finances and private children matters. Dominic Lee joined from John Hooper & Co in May 2023.




Practice head(s):

Helen Derry

Other key lawyers:

Chrystal Theofanous; Mo Hayes; Jessica Firth-Brown; Nicholas Flatt; Siobhan Thompson; Ailsa Tennant; Dominic Lee


‘Chrystal Theofanous and her team are amazing. They always go the extra mile with a high level of experience and knowledge of international children matters; they are becoming more prominent in this area which is positive to note.’

‘Chrystal Theofanous manages her cases impeccably and her team always knows what is happening at every stage. Chrystal is always available for her clients and counsel and takes an active role in all elements of her clients cases; her advice is spot on and her support of counsel is invaluable.’

‘Ailsa Tennant’s collaborative and measured approach to cases has always ensured that the working relationship between client, solicitor and Counsel is a smooth and successful one. Ailsa always provides extremely helpful and comprehensive briefs and, where further information is required, responds to queries of all natures in a timely, attentive way.’

‘Helen Derry stands out as a strong leader of the family team. She leads on the commitment to training and development of the entire team and is a proven performer in her field with many years of experience.’

‘Nick is very passionate and very balanced in his approach to representing children. He goes beyond duty every time to ensure that the children have best representation.’

‘Siobhan Thompson is an experienced solicitor in children’s cases. She is very hardworking and dedicated to a high level of client service. She is particularly popular with Children’s Guardians.’

‘Nick Flatt – An exceptional solicitor, who always works hard for his clients, understands issues and ‘gets’ family law.

‘Siobhan Thompson – An extremely hard working children law specialist, who is well respected by Guardian’s for her focus on best outcomes for children.’

Smith Partnership

Spearheaded by Muctar Johal, who is ‘well-respected by all those involved in children proceedings’ and mediator, and Ruth Jones, Smith Partnership‘s family law department continues to standout for its children law expertise. Johal routinely conducts his own advocacy and specialises in public children’s law cases where the government and local authority, has intervened in private family life due to allegations of child abuse or neglect.

Practice head(s):

Muctar Johal; Ruth Jones


‘Muctar Johal is a specialist family law solicitor with a very fine reputation in the Midlands. He does a lot of his own advocacy and understandably so as he is very capable indeed. He is hard working,highly dedicated and very knowledgeable in his field.’

‘Muctar Johal is a super solicitor advocate who knows his stuff and prepares extremely well. He is a delight to work for and with. He has the respect of the Judges and his opponents. He is so incredibly polite and respectful at all times. His practice is fantastic with the best quality of cases and work’

‘Muctar Johal is an exemplary professional. He has invaluable experience of the most serious and challenging child care cases. In my experience of working with Muctar, he goes above and beyond what many solicitors will do for their clients. He is attentive to the well being of his clients, supporting them through the proceedings. He has a fantastic grasp of the complex medical issues that can arise in these cases. He leads a good team.’

Banner Jones Solicitors

Banner Jones Solicitors‘ family law team consists of head of practice, Kelly Parks, specialising in complex divorce and financial cases, working alongside children law senior solicitor Shetal Gudgeon. The firm is also highly experienced representing children in care proceedings, with Vince Beckworth ‘ably supported’ by ‘very safe pair of hands’, senior associate, Jason Burnett. Both act on behalf of parents and individuals intervening in care proceedings, and in disputes concerning residence, contact arrangements for children, adoption and prohibited steps.


Practice head(s):

Kelly Parks; Vince Beckworth

Other key lawyers:

Shetal Gudgeon; Jason Burnett


‘The addition of Jason Burnett to the team has added a real dose of focused reality and efficient representation.’

‘Jason Burnett is approachable and very client-focused.’

‘A very strong Family Team with the Care Team headed up by the charismatic Vince Beckworth ably supported by Jason Burnett who is a very safe pair of hands.’

Flint Bishop LLP

The ‘very well respectedAngela Davis is head of the family department at Flint Bishop LLP, leveraging long-standing experience and knowledge in divorce and separation, pre/post nuptial agreements, and arrangements for children. Associate Nanita Kanabar supports Davis in financial separation cases.

Practice head(s):

Angela Davis

Other key lawyers:

Nanita Kanabar


‘Angela has a real eye for detail and thoroughly knows her law. She is a safe pair of hands for the client and she is also realistic and sensible. She is very well respected.’

‘ Angela is very reputable and she is a good, solid, safe pair of hands.’

Freeths LLP

Nikki Aston has taken over as the lead family lawyer at Freeths LLP, following the retirement of Judith Speed in September 2022. Described as ‘driven, compassionate and dedicated to doing her absolute best for her clients’ Aston, has great experience in divorce and high net worth financial settlements, and in complex private law children matters, particularly in issues such as allegations of abuse, and parental alienation. She also advises on civil partnership breakdown and cohabitee property disputes. In July 2023, the team was bolstered by the arrival of Stephanie Clifton from John Hooper & Co.

Practice head(s):

Nikki Aston

Other key lawyers:

Stephanie Clifton


‘Freeths has a strong Midlands Team. They are well regarded in the local market. They have good quality clients.’

‘Nikki Aston is a star. She is a really capable and well regarded financial remedy lawyer. She is pragmatic and professional and looks after her clients.’

‘Freeths are a large national firm but with a strong East Midlands presence, which is being built further by new recruit Nikki Aston.’

‘Nikki Aston is driven, compassionate and dedicated to doing her absolute best for her clients.’

Howes Percival LLP

Howes Percival LLP attracts instructions from high-net-worth clients looking for experienced counsel in complex financial cases involving businesses, land, pensions and trusts. Team head Justine Flack also offers complementary expertise in wealth preservation and in regard to pre-nuptial agreements. Senior associate Alishia Marrocco 'gives realistic and robust advice' in financial remedies and Children Act proceedings.


Practice head(s):

Justine Flack

Other key lawyers:

Alishia Marrocco


‘Strong team who work well as a collective to ensure the best possible client care’

‘Alishia Marrocco is brilliant. Down to earth and supportive. She gives realistic and robust advice but will then support you in your instructions and make sure they are put forcefully in court.’



Rotherascombines technical expertise with a high degree of client care’ and is particularly well known for its work in financial settlements and private children issues. Paul Cobb frequently acts for high-net-worth clients, as well as advising cohabiting couples in relation to pre/post nuptial agreements and civil partnership agreements. Divorce and separation specialist, Joanne Millward is an established and knowledgeable practitioner who is highly regarded and well respected’. Fellow partner Ann-Marie Bowman is ‘an exceptionally skilled solicitor’ in adoption, care proceedings, child arrangement orders and special guardianship.



Practice head(s):

Paul Cobb; Ann-Marie Bowman

Other key lawyers:

Joanne Millward


‘Joanne Millward is an established and knowledgeable practitioner who is highly regarded and well respected. She deals with mid to high net worth individuals on a wide range of family law issues.’

‘Jo is very down to earth, pragmatic, with a ton of common sense. She has a real sense of what is best for her client.’

‘Paul Cobb, head of family, is a very sensible and approachable lawyer. ‘

Wilkin Chapman LLP

Wilkin Chapman LLP is a strong choice for financial cases involving high net worth financial divorces, agricultural businesses and trusts and military pensions. Based in Licoln, Lisa Boileau has outstanding knowledge and experience’ negotiating pre-nuptial agreements and in divorce proceedings. Julie Bailey has developed a notable specialism in divorces involving military personnel. Associates Stacey Heeley and Lucy Reding also provide valuable support.


Practice head(s):

Lisa Boileau

Other key lawyers:

Julie Bailey; Stacey Heeley; Lucy Reding


‘Great level of knowledge re family law regarding complex cases’

‘Lisa Boileau has outstanding knowledge and experience, calm careful and considered approach and will not be intimidated. Very reassuring support for the client in difficult emotional times.’

‘Lisa Boileau and Lucy Reding are extremely skilful.’


Chattertons offers ‘good strength in depth’ covering all aspects of private family law, to include divorce and related financial settlements, nuptial agreements, cohabitation disputes, arrangements for children including applications to the Court. Team leader Liz Graham in Grantham works alongside Lincoln based, Neil Denny, who joined from Roythornes Solicitors in March 2022. He specialises in financial remedies work for executives, business owners, and directors.

Practice head(s):

Liz Graham

Other key lawyers:

Neil Denny


‘Liz Graham Partner was fantastic from start to finish, everything was covered off very professionally and with upmost care and understanding. An all round 1st class service for all professionals that I encountered within Chattertons Grantham.’

‘The family law team at Chattertons provide first class service to a wide range of clients. Within Lincolnshire, Chattertons are renovated for high net worth divorce cases, especially those with an agricultural element. The family department has a good strength in depth and is always available to speak to when needed.’

‘Liz Graham, who head the family team, is approachable and provides straightforward and accurate advice to clients. Liz is able to bring in outside help when necessary and achieves excellent results for her clients.’

Excello Law

At Excello LawSwati Somaiya, an ‘excellent solicitor with a vast amount of experience and knowledge’ primarily deals with divorces and dissolution of civil partnerships, financial settlements and matters affecting children. She is particularly well known for handling cases involving business interests, overseas assets, property, large pension funds and third-party loans and trusts.


Practice head(s):

Swati Somaiya


‘Swati Somaiya’s technical knowledge is excellent and has a very good manner with clients.’

‘Swati Somaiya – Attentive, sympathetic, professional, kind, supportive. She gave practical sensible advice and supported me throughout the whole process I cannot recommend her highly enough.’

‘Total focus on the needs of the client with empathy, understanding and professionalism.’

‘Swati Somaiya, an exceptional solicitor, focused, experienced, a soft touch when needed but exceptionally commercial and determined to achieve the best outcome for her client. Client first, understanding, an iron fist in a velvet glove.’

‘Excello Law are a vibrant and dynamic firm that provide excellent value for money. Meeting each individual client’s needs is a priority for them, and they strive to achieve the confidence and trust of their clients.’

‘I would highly recommend Swati Somaiya. She is an excellent solicitor, with a vast amount of experience and knowledge. She provides sharp and insightful advice and works extremely hard for her clients. In an extremely competitive sector, clients are able to rely on her honest and proportionate advice. She strives to provide clients with the most efficient and cost effective outcome at all times. As counsel, she is a pleasure to work with. She is very much a team player and provides me comprehensive and in depth support.’

‘Swati Somaiya but know via the local family law community that Excello Law has a very good and strong reputation that is highly regarded. They prides themselves in providing the highest level of service to all clients across the board and invest lawyers that are experts in their field and come form a diverse background – promoting a culture of collaboration in an high performing innovative environment.’

Roythornes Solicitors

Roythornes Solicitors’ team specialise in medium to high-value financial cases involving pension assets, company/partnership assets, trusts and ‘unrivalled expertise’ in separation of agricultural assets. Nick Ingrey has vast experience in relation to high-value financial claims and children law cases. Joining in May 2022 from Shakespeare Martineau LLP, Caroline Elliott is another specialist in financial settlements on divorce. John Boon, who made partner in July 2023, and associate Layla Babadi are also highly recommended.

Practice head(s):

Nick Ingrey

Other key lawyers:

Caroline Elliott; John Boon; Layla Babadi


‘Nick Ingrey: Nick was the principle lead, his experience and no nonsense attitude were key in keeping me informed and abreast of the process i was going through. His management of my expectations and realistic attitude to potential outcomes were invaluable’

‘John Boon is outstanding. His professionalism, integrity, honesty and empathy are beyond any criticism. He set my expectations from day 1 including likely outcomes, costs and the emotional price of our future relationship. He kept me informed of everything option, decision and advised me accordingly.’

‘Caroline Elliot- excellent acquisition by Roythornes. Thoroughly knowledgeable in all areas, a force and an excellent opponent, one to have on your side.’

‘Caroline Elliott is an exceptional lawyer, with a wide expertise in high net worth cases. Her approach is no nonsense, she is unflappable and always looks to the big picture when trying to solve a case. She is practical and robust, yet warm and compassionate.’

‘Caroline Elliott is a well regarded and well respected family law partner. She is pragmatic and fair but looks after her clients and fights their corner.’

‘Layla Babadi has brought her experience to building the department that deals with divorce. Not only does this add a service that is in demand it also leads to other family law requirements. A team makes a place unique not what they do, most solicitors do very similar things but Layla will bring her experience of building a department.

‘Roythornes are a very well regarded team who are amongst the best solicitors in their region for divorce and financial remedies matters. They have a national reputation for agricultural disputes on divorce and unrivalled expertise in this area.’

‘John Boon is a very experienced and reliable solicitor with a specialism in farming / agricultural disputes arising on divorce and is a ‘go to’ figure in this particular practice area.’

Wilson Browne Solicitors

Helen York is Wilson Browne Solicitors' leading financial settlement expert, while fellow partner and head of practice, Ed Rawlins deals with all legal aspects of relationship breakdown, focusing on issues of land and business assets. Associate Jessica Leech 'is up there with the very best junior solicitors.'

Practice head(s):

Ed Rawlins

Other key lawyers:

Helen York; Jessica Leech


‘Jessica Leech was excellent very professional. Quick to answer any questions that I had.’

‘Wilson Brown are an established firm and function the same way as any ‘Magic circle’ firm, providing a water tight service to not only counsel instructed but to their clients. The team is proactive and communicate well in relation briefs, future fixtures, deadlines and counsels fees, which are paid in good time.’

‘Ed Rawlins and Helen York are excellent with clients and counsel protecting their interests at all times, leaving no stone unturned.’