Family in North

David Gray Solicitors LLP

Finance expert Lucy Mead leads the David Gray Solicitors LLP practice that has expertise in female genital mutilation cases, guardianship issues and dispute resolution. The firm undertakes the bulk of its own advocacy and is involved in an increasing number of complex financial cases. The experienced team is made up of resolution accredited specialists, members of the Law Society’s Children Law Accredited Scheme and Higher Rights Advocates. This includes Mary Shaw, who is a specialist lawyer in the areas of advanced financial provision and private children law, and managing partner Elspeth Thomson. Also recommended are Claire Hunter and solicitor Sukhi Patter.

Practice head(s):

Lucy Mead

Other key lawyers:

Mary Shaw; Elspeth Thomson; Claire Hunter; Lesley Monkhouse; Sukhi Patter


‘Sound, sensible advice delivered at an early stage with high levels of client care.’

‘Elspeth Thomson is very good.’

‘Claire Hunter and Lucy Mead are a safe pair of hands.’

‘Lesley Monkhouse stands out for her sensible and practical approach.’

Work highlights

  • Represented a mother who was alleged to have harmed her baby.
  • Represented children in an application by the Local Authority for Care Orders following the death of their sibling in suspicious circumstances.
  • Represented children in a care case.
  • Represented a young mother accused of harming her baby.
  • Advising a 17 year old pregnant girl who was terminally ill.

Major Family Law

Boutique family law firm Major Family Law  ‘provides a dedicated and thorough service to clients with family law problems.’ The ‘imperturbable' managing director Joanne Major leads the practice and is ‘an expert at helping individuals deal with the difficulties of divorce and the financial settlement.’ Her team includes the ‘tenacious’ director Anna Hunter, who specialises in complex children work; director Lucinda Connell, who is ‘a skilled advocate,’ active in multi-jurisdictional children's cases; consultant Jonathan Dunkley, whose expertise lies in complex finance matters; and solicitor Sam Carter, whose particular focus is advising clients in complex children law issues.

Practice head(s):

Joanne Major


‘The team is approachable, friendly and emphatic whilst remaining professional.’

‘The team’s strength is the great leadership driven from the top by the MD Joanne Major.’

‘Visiting the office is a joy – the professionalism of all staff who provide a very sympathetic and courteous service does make some of the difficult subject matter you are there to discuss far less traumatic.’

‘The team at Major Family Law is very client centric.’

‘All those who have dealt with the firm have been hugely impressed by the combination of expertise, forthrightness and emotional intelligence the team shows.’

‘They are all exceptionally good at what they do – and understand the importance of the whole client experience.’

‘Major Family Law is a boutique family law firm, providing the highest quality family law services in the North East.’

‘Joanne Major always provides a very trusting guiding hand, she has a real talent in explaining some very complex areas of divorce law.’

‘Anna Hunter is an intelligent and objective, but determined solicitor, who can achieve the best outcome without breaking the bank.’

‘Joanne Major is a brilliant family lawyer, with all the skills and empathy one would expect. She understands entrepreneurs and business people, and how the business world functions – essential in reaching workable settlements for divorcing business people.’

‘Anna Hunter is a specialist in children proceedings, specialising in multi-jurisdictional disputes.’ 

‘Lucinda Connell is an expert in high-value cases, often involving overseas assets.’ 

‘Sam Carter has quickly acquired a reputation as an exceptionally good advocate, particularly in children law matters where social services are involved.’

‘Jonathan Dunkley is a highly experienced practitioner and a tough negotiator when required.’


Silk Family Law

Boutique family law firm Silk Family Law specialises in high-net-worth individuals, particularly in the agricultural and farming sector. The team has national reach and includes in-house barrister Ian Kennerley, who is ‘trusted to always act in the client's best interest'; Kim Fellowes, who is ‘a dream to work with professionally’; and Margaret Simpson, whose ‘attention to detail is her secret weapon’. Also notable are the 'professional, thorough and competentWayne Lynn and experienced associate Siobhan Jeffers, who is a resolution accredited specialist in advanced financial provision and children work.


The Cumbria focused practice of Burnetts specialises in farming and business clients, notably in financial, childcare and guardianship matters. The firm is known for handling complex family law issues, including cross-border matters and multi-million pound divorces involving farm business partnerships and assets. Simon Mortimer leads the team and is an accredited resolution specialist as well as a trained collaborative lawyer. He can call on the expertise of Amy Fallows who focuses on complex financial work and childcare cases.

Practice head(s):

Simon Mortimer

Other key lawyers:

Amy Fallows


‘Burnetts is excellent in its delegation of activities.’

‘Simon Mortimer is outstanding.’

‘Simon Mortimer’s approach is always carefully measured and non-judgmental. He instills a high-level of trust, which is very important when you are in unfamiliar territory.’

‘Friendly and professional.’


Work highlights

  • Advised wife in divorce and complicated partnership dispute.
  • Acting for a father to obtain a declaration of parentage without DNA testing.
  • Acting for husband living in UAE seeking contact with child in UK.
  • Acting for husband who owned a substantial business and taking case on at late stage with imminent hearing approaching.

Hay & Kilner

Specialising in divorce and financial provision matters, Hay & Kilner also has experience in private and public law children cases, as well as providing the expertise to resolve family disputes by traditional negotiations, mediation and collaborative process. Qualified mediator Nicola Matthews leads the team with Rob Hart, who is regularly instructed by children’s guardians. Also notable in the team are associates Kerry Sutherland and Leanne Sutherland, who are members of the Law Society Children Panel and deal with complex children cases.

Practice head(s):

Nicola Matthews; Rob Hart

Other key lawyers:

Kerry Sutherland; Leanne Sutherland


‘Competent, reliable and cost effective.’

‘All the team members are very committed to the best outcomes of their client.’

‘They work in consultation with their clients.’

‘Nicola Matthews is extremely capable, quietly spoken and has a good manner with clients.’

‘Stephanie Layton is genuine, practical, committed, very professional and dedicated to best outcome of the client.’

Sintons LLP

Particularly experienced in high-net-worth individuals, Sintons LLP also has expertise with unusual family law cases, including those related to the Hague Convention and international financial cases. Practice head Steven Freeman specialises in high-net-worth financial remedy matters and his team was boosted by the arrivals of consultant Elizabeth Gallagher, who joined from Macks solicitors, and solicitor Louisa Bestford, who arrived from Jacksons Law; both are collaboratively trained.

Practice head(s):

Steven Freeman

Swinburne Maddison

Swinburne Maddison specialises in collaborative law and complex financial matters for wealthy clients. The firm also provides a range of dispute resolution services. Chartered legal executive Kath Hill is the ‘well-respected and experienced’ practice head and is an accredited mediator and collaborative lawyer. Her team includes solicitor Allan Devine, who has a particular focus on criminal and public law children matters on behalf of parents, and solicitor Catherine Lowther, who has expertise in relationship breakdown as well as public and private law children matters.

Practice head(s):

Kath Hill

Other key lawyers:

Allan Devine; Catherine Lowther


‘The team’s strength is most definitely its welcoming, friendly and calm demeanour.’

‘Professional throughout.’

A very friendly, approachable and knowledgeable firm, one of the best in Durham.’

‘The Family Team’s strength is that they always go the extra mile for their clients.’

‘Kath Hill is superb. She always has a great rapport with her clients and always gives very practical advice whether it is Private law or Financial Remedy cases.’

Work highlights

  • Acting in relation to a pension claim brought against the client 16 years after divorce.

Ward Hadaway

Ward Hadaway is known for complex, high value cases and has experience in traditional areas including relationship breakdown, as well as children disputes and safeguarding children work for the NHS, academies and private clients. The practice is led by children and safeguarding specialist Jonathan Flower and matrimonial expert Sarah Crilly. Also notable in the team is associate Louise Cannell-Mirza, who has particular expertise in childcare.

Practice head(s):

Jonathan Flower; Sarah Crilly

Other key lawyers:

Louise Cannell-Mirza


‘The service is reliable, consistent, professional at all times, and the solicitors always keep clients informed.’

‘Ward Hadaway provides first class service.’

‘The knowledge and lengthy experience of the solicitors within the firm is excellent, and their case management is excellent.’

‘This practice has lawyers who are committed and will go the extra mile. the lawyers are committed to representing the needs of their clients and have the ability to represent clients effectively.’

‘Louise Cannell-Mirza is a very good childcare specialist.’

Beecham Peacock

The range of expertise at Beecham Peacock includes domestic abuse, finance and divorce cases. Charlotte Talbot and Sophia Yau Rosher lead the team that was strengthened by the arrival of Vanessa Reed, from Sunderland City Council.

Practice head(s):

Charlotte Talbot; Sophia Yau Rosher

Other key lawyers:



BHP Law covers all aspects of family and childcare work but is particularly well-regarded for care proceedings cases. Practice head Andrea Hewitson is a resolution accredited solicitor, a member of the Law Society Family Panel and is a fully qualified collaborative lawyer. Her team was boosted by the arrival of associate Amanda Adeola, who joined from Macks Solicitors in 2018 and is a resolution accredited solicitor as well as having Higher Rights of Audience.

Practice head(s):

Andrea Hewitson

Other key lawyers:

Amanda Adeola


‘Everyone at BHP Law were fantastic, especially Amanda Adeola.’

‘Helpful and supportive through every step of the case.’

‘Amanda Adeola is a credit to the firm. Nothing was ever too much trouble for her.’

‘The support received was second to none, very professional.’

EMG Solicitors

EMG Solicitors has experience in finance, divorce and children cases. Resolution accredited associate Julia Middleton leads the practice with the 'calm, confident and compassionate' associate Natalia Lalas, who has a particular expertise in the niche area of surrogacy. The team also has a notable specialism in complex capacity matters.

Practice head(s):

Julia Middleton; Natalia Lalas


‘Good, friendly and very accessible staff treat clients with respect and understanding.’

‘The manner in which the firm deals with the client is fantastic.’

‘EMG is forward thinking, highly professional and has a reputation for excellence as a leader in its field.’

‘Natalia Lalas is a dedicated solicitor with many years experience as a private client specialist. She has a genuine commitment to ensuring the best outcome for her clients, both in terms of problem solving and value for money.’ 

‘Natalia Lalas was understanding, sympathetic but also hugely knowledgable and reassuring. A credit to EMG.’

Work highlights

  • Represented client as Litigation Friend for mother in divorce and financial proceedings.
  • Represented client in quasi collaborative divorce and financial case.
  • Advising on complex child case with client with brain injured child with capacity issues.
  • Complex financial remedy case involving numerous assets, businesses and pensions.
  • Complex financial case also involving children. This case also involved international assets and issues to do with religious faith.

Mincoffs Solicitors LLP

Mincoffs Solicitors LLP specialises in acting for high-net-worth individuals in divorce and financial matters, as well as prenuptial agreements and private children work. Consultant Lyn Rutherford leads the practice and can call on the expertise of associate Emily Cannell, who has experience in a range of complex cases from divorce and financial issues to private law children matters.

Practice head(s):

Lyn Rutherford

Other key lawyers:

Emily Cannell;

Tilly Bailey & Irvine

Known for private finance family law, Tilly Bailey & Irvine specialises in high-net-worth clients, particularly from the farming sector. Brian Farrell leads the team and is a member of the Law Society Family Law Accreditation scheme. His areas of expertise is divorce and financial remedies relating to farming and business. Also notable is associate Shamin Ali, who has experience in child arrangements matters.

Practice head(s):

Brian Farrell

Other key lawyers:

Shamin Ali


‘An expanding high street practice.’

‘Shamin Ali is an up and coming family solicitor with a practical, result-orientated approach to litigation.’

Work highlights

  • Divorce and finances involving a business and farming interests  which have been built up during the course of the marriage but not wholly attributable to the husband.  Wife not involving in such interests.
  • Consideration of parties’ respective contributions in where this is a short marriage with no children.
  • Exceptionally acrimonious case which has involved divorce, financial remedy orders, commercial litigation and child arrangements,
  • Applications for interim maintenance and extension of term of maintenance.


Vardags is a matrimonial and family law firm specialising in high-net-worth and complex cases, particularly involving an international element. Led by director Sarah Ward, the team has notable expertise in high-value financial matters and complex Children Act proceedings.

Practice head(s):

Sarah Ward

Work highlights

  • Representing financially weaker husband of a wife who had inherited a significant estate from her late parents.
  • Representing the mother of a young child in relation to ongoing children proceedings against an alleged coercive and controlling father.