Family in Scotland

Brodies LLP

The 'top flight family law team' at Brodies LLP acts for high net worth individuals and private clients, with a particular emphasis on high value divorce cases, pre-nuptial agreements and cohabitation agreements. The large and widespread team, which is led by Shaun George, also handles the full range of child law matters, including international abduction, contact orders and child residence disputes, and regularly acts in multi-jurisdictional matters pertaining to financial provision and forum shopping. Scott Cochrane has 'excellent knowledge' of international family law matters, while Lisa Girdwood is a leading voice on child abductions and the implications of Brexit in this area.

Practice head(s):

Shaun George

Other key lawyers:

Scott Cochrane; Lisa Girdwood; Richard B Smith


‘Brodies has an outstanding team of family lawyers, with a deservedly great reputation. They are supported by an outstanding firm, which means that there is back-up when unforeseen issues arise in relation to other areas of law.’

‘Brodies has a top flight family law team. It has a large team across three offices with strength and depth at all levels of seniority.’

‘Very professional, high quality and well mannered team.’

‘Lisa Girdwood is very approachable and takes time to explain things clearly.’

Richard Smith has a calm and competent manner and excellent judgement.’

‘Richard Smith is pragmatic, direct and has an excellent client manner.’

‘Scott Cochrane was not only my solicitor, but a supportive advocate through a very difficult child custody matter. My case was very complicated with an international aspect to it and he always had extensive knowledge about the law.’

‘Lisa Girdwood is well-informed and gives 100% commitment to her clients.’

Work highlights

  • Represented a client in a case involving cross-border aspects of ‘forum shopping’ on maintenance and divorce.
  • Represented a client to provide a creative solution to a complicated business case subject to HMRC clearance.
  • Represented a client in a highly contentious litigation in relation to the care of his children, both at first instance and on appeal.
  • Representing a client in a case involving complex international financial provision.
  • Application for return of a child under Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980 as instructed by the Scottish Government.


'Leading family law practice' SKO  acts for high net worth individuals, corporate clients and charities in a wide range of contentious and non-contentious matters, often relating to abduction and international adoption, and requiring in-depth knowledge of the Hague Convention. Rachael Kelsey - 'the doyen of Scots family law' is president-elect of the EU Chapter of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and is widely considered as one of the leading authorities on the implications of Brexit on family law. The 'insightful and emotionally astute' Robert Gilmour has particular expertise in artificial reproductive technology and surrogacy and in 2017 advised on the first reported private law contested declarator of parentage case in the UK.

Practice head(s):

Rachael Kelsey

Other key lawyers:

Robert Gilmour


‘Undoubtedly the premier family law firm in Scotland. Its members provide a unique breath of expertise and experience in the whole spectrum of private family law.’

‘This practice is head and shoulders above the rest in terms of family law in Scotland. Sensible, practical, pragmatic, thoughtful, understanding, empathetic, whilst also superlatively good technically – they are really unrivalled.’

‘SKO is the leading specialist family law practice in Scotland. This is an impressive firm of dedicated and committed lawyers, who care about their clients and their work. The level of expertise is unparalleled in the Scottish market. The lawyers are supported by an excellent administrative team. Advice is always sound and client care is excellent.’

‘Very good attention to detail and excellent client care.’

‘A very intelligent and intellectually committed firm, with an awareness of the importance of rigorous research and academic engagement.’

‘Every single partner and solicitor goes above and beyond simply delivering client work. 

‘Rachel Kelsey is the doyen of Scots family law solicitors with a global reputation stemming from her involvement in the International Academy of Family Lawyers.

‘Robert Gilmore is the leading practitioner in surrogacy law in Scotland.’

‘Rachael Kelsey is an absolutely splendid solicitor. She has particular expertise in international matters. She has given a lot of her time to Brexit-related issues with various groups.’ 

‘Rachael Kelsey is the go-to person on Scottish family law issues. She has accurate working knowledge of the law, a wonderful charm and an ease at being with demanding international clients.’

‘Robert Gilmour is calm, considered in his opinion, wise, reliable, efficient and professional.’

Key clients


Scottish Government

Local Authorities in Scotland and England and Wales

Work highlights

  • Acting in Scottish proceedings in the first reported case in the UK on the operation of the Maintenance Regulation.
  • Advising on Court of Session divorce dealing with vesting of share options, overseas pension and support post divorce.
  • Advising on high profile divorce including an application to set aside pre-nup.
  • Novel and bespoke mediation process created for international child law matter.
  • Acting for applicant for declarator of parentage arising from inadequate record keeping by fertility clinics in donor sperm cases.

Balfour+Manson LLP

Balfour+Manson LLP handles a high volume of divorce claims that involve contentious elements such as economic disadvantage arguments, division of company assets, abusive behaviour and shared property in multiple countries. The firm's capabilities are also demonstrated by its work on cohabitation claims and child law matters including residence orders, contact orders and permanence orders. 'Calm and unflappable' practice head Shona Smith, a trained arbitrator and mediator, also sits as a member of the Family Law sub-committee of the Law Society of Scotland, while junior partner Jamie Foulis is seen as 'a rising star'.

Practice head(s):

Shona Smith


‘A strong family law team, with a huge bank of experience across a number of different facets – knowledgeable, approachable, communicative and above all, pragmatic.’

‘A very well established firm with a highly experienced family law department.  The firm has a well-deserved excellent reputation for both its direct work with clients and its work as an Edinburgh agent for other firms from outside Edinburgh.’

‘Shona Smith, is a standout family lawyer, who is hugely experienced. She is straighforward, clear and outcome-focused.’

‘Shona Smith exercises a skilled and measured approach to her own cases and to management of the team. She is calm and unflappable.’

BTO Solicitors LLP

BTO Solicitors LLP's 'approachable and knowledgeable' family law team advises high net worth individuals in cohabitation and divorce disputes which relate to tax issues, dissipation of assets, property transfers, shared company interests and various other contentious points, as well as acting in child contact cases. 'Personable and skilled' practitioner Lesley Gordon is a go-to lawyer for divorce cases in which the parties are business partners.

Practice head(s):

Lesley Gordon


‘Lesley Gordon understands the key issues – she is particularly skilled at collaborative practice and is personable to deal with.’

‘The family law team in Glasgow are friendly, approachable, sensible and knowledgeable in what they do.’


Lindsays frequently represents high net worth individuals in financial provision cases involving aspects such as residency disputes and disagreements over the distribution of matrimonial property or business assets. Another notable area of expertise for the firm is residence orders and contact orders of a contentious nature due to allegations of sexual assault or violence. The team also handles safeguarding matters for vulnerable children and young adults and cross-jurisdictional child abduction cases. 'Tenacious' and 'pragmatic' practice head Alison McKee has a niche in the developing field of surrogacy law and is frequently appointed by the Glasgow Sheriff Court's panel of solicitors to produce reports on contact and residence disputes. Dundee partner Jennifer Gallagher is chair of Scotland's Family Law Association.

Practice head(s):

Alison McKee

Other key lawyers:

Nina Taylor; Jennifer Gallagher


‘Alison McKee has a wide breadth of experience and is equally at home litigating or trying to resolve matters by agreement. She is also very pragmatic.’

‘Pragmatic, down to earth, client-focused and solutions driven.’

A superbly professional practice and very well resourced with the capacity to take on all sorts of sizes of work.’

‘Alison McKee offered empathic understanding of my situation as well as informed advice.’

‘Nina Taylor is a joy to work with. She has a warm personality which puts clients entirely at ease but is a robust negotiator and a formidable opponent in court.’

‘Jennifer Gallagher is efficient in case management and has an excellent grasp of the law.’

Work highlights

  • Advised on international child abduction matter.
  • Handled cross-jurisdictional negotiation of financial provision on divorce.
  • Acted in highly contentious Sheriff Court action for financial provision on divorce and residence/contact of the three children.
  • Advised on complex financial provision and contact/residence matter.

MacRoberts LLP

MacRoberts LLP's thriving family law practice is frequently instructed in multi-jurisdictional cases relating to child abductions, relocation proceedings and financial provision upon divorce, often involving high net worth clients. The team, which is led by 'gifted family mediator' Jacqueline Stroud, has further expertise pursuing uncontested and contested adoption applications, advising on the drafting of prenuptial agreements, and acting in child contact cases. The 'outstanding' Marika Franceschi handles a wide range of matters for international clients, from asset division following separation to advising on ante-nuptial contracts.

Practice head(s):

Jacqueline Stroud

Other key lawyers:

Marika Franceschi


“The whole team is totally reliable, and the service has been outstanding. Any instruction is actioned immediately. We have to be able to rely on our Edinburgh agents completely, and have never been disappointed.”

‘MacRoberts has an excellent team with the full range of skills and a wealth of experience.’

‘Marika Franceschi possesses an excellent knowledge of Court of Session procedure, even the less frequently used aspects.’

‘Jackie Stroud is growing a strong reputation as a gifted family mediator. Mediation comes naturally to her – her warm manner means that clients feel at ease.’

“Marika Franceschi has a hugely empathetic manner with clients and substantial experience in dealing with high value financial divorce.” 

“Jacqueline Stroud is an astute court practitioner.”

Work highlights

  • Acting as Edinburgh agents in child abduction petitions at the Court of Session.
  • Acted in a number of adoption cases referred through local authorities and adoption agencies.
  • Advising an Italian national in respect of a pre-nuptial contract.
  • Acting in a long running divorce case involving technical arguments regarding changes to the nature of the husband’s company.

Morton Fraser

Morton Fraser 's family law practice regularly advises on financial provision cases related to divorce proceedings, often involving complex disputes over what qualifies as matrimonial property, as well as regularly being instructed to handle contentious child law cases, including securing the return of children under the Hague Convention. The team, which is led out of Edinburgh by the long-serving Rhona Adams, also pursues claims for local authorities in child law cases and often acts in cross-border claims. Adams works alongside Lucia Clark in Edinburgh, while the 'feisty and highly engaged' Fiona Sasan is the lead partner in the firm's Glasgow office. Consultant solicitor Savita Sharma has acted in several international child law matters and intra-UK disputes over the appropriate jurisdiction to raise court proceedings. Trudy Burns joined as a senior solicitor from Turcan Connell in early 2019.

Practice head(s):

Rhona Adams


‘A well-established firm with a large family law team based in both Edinburgh and Glasgow.  The firm has particular experience in cross-border and international cases’.

‘Morton Fraser has a high quality team working in Edinburgh and Glasgow. It is one of the leading firms in this area in both cities’.

‘Fiona Sasan is highly experienced, instils confidence in clients’.

‘Rhona Adams is an excellent mediator, excellent manner and very good cross border experience, careful and thorough’.

‘Rhona Adams has a wealth of experience and a calm approach. Fiona Sasan is feisty and highly engaged. Lucia Clark is dual Scots/English qualified, thoughtful and intelligent in her analysis and advice’.

Key clients

The City of Edinburgh Council

Orkney Islands Council

Crown Commercial Service Wider Public Sector Legal Services Panel

East Lothian Council

Aberdeenshire Council

Highland Council

West Lothian Council

Ministry of Defence

Work highlights

  • Acted for a wife in a financial provision divorce case in Edinburgh Sheriff Court.
  • Acted for petitioner in child abduction petition involving children removed from Estonia to Scotland.
  • Represented petitioner in application under Hague Convention for return of a child to Sweden from Scotland.
  • Acted for husband defender in financial provision divorce proceedings initially raised in Sheriff Court but then remitted to Court of Session.

Turcan Connell

Turcan Connell's practice has a strong track record of advising high net worth individuals in divorce proceedings involving complex elements such as the division of shared company assets, child custody and disputes over the date of separation. The team, which is led by managing partner Gillian Crandles, also advises on child abductions, relocations and abuse claims that often span multiple jurisdictions, as well as helping clients to set up prenuptial agreements. Solicitor-advocate Noel Ferry litigated several complex cohabitant claims last year in response to increased demand in this area, and 'skilled litigator' Lindsey Ogilvie was promoted to partner in 2018. Long-serving partner Alasdair Loudon retired in early 2019 after establishing the practice more than 18 years ago.

Practice head(s):

Gillian Crandles

Other key lawyers:

Noel Ferry; Lindsey Ogilvie


‘The Turcan Connell team is one of the leading family law teams in Scotland.’

‘Turcan Connell’s family law practice was very different from my preconceptions and fears. No grandstanding, just excellent legal knowledge and quiet confidence. No aggressive behaviours, only conciliation and collaboration to reach a reasonable and managed solution.’

‘The team is unique in that they have not just a few individuals that are strong in knowledge and capability but the whole team have strengths and work well together to deliver a service that is needed by their clients.’

‘Gillian Crandles combines an in-depth knowledge of the law with an excellent client manner and real commitment to getting the best result for her clients.’

‘Gillian Crandles is without peer as a family law solicitor; she has a finely tuned ability to quickly make a comprehensive assessment of a client’s needs and concerns while still making them feel completely at the centre of her attention. She instilled a quiet but infectious confidence in me that the problems I described could be resolved with dignity. She leads her team with a caring style and a high level of professionalism.’

Aberdein Considine

Aberdein Considine handles a wide range of claims in court and through mediation often relating to child welfare, including interdicts and exclusion orders, relocation disputes, and court orders to protect vulnerable children domestically and internationally. The team, which is led by the 'exceptionally thorough and hard working' Ruth Aberdein, is instructed in a number of complex cohabitant disputes, divorce proceedings and negotiations concerning prenuptial agreements where one party has significant wealth to protect. The 'diligent and sensitive' Naeema Sajid, who is a member of the Law Society of Scotland's Family Law Sub-committee, has particular experience of acting in child maintenance appeals and applying for guardianship orders.

Practice head(s):

Ruth Aberdein

Other key lawyers:

Naeema Sajid


‘A very responsive and attentive team, regardless of what office you visit.’

‘Ruth Aberdein is an exceptionally thorough and hard working solicitor.’ 

‘Naeema Sajid’s sensitivity and demeanour projected calm throughout our dealings with her. She was fair and reasonable and knowledgeable regarding the specific questions and advice that were asked of her. Naeema kept me up to date and dealt with any queries swiftly.’

Work highlights

  • Defending Sheriff Court action involving a cohabitant’s claim in terms of section 28 of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006.
  • Sheriff Court action involving a cohabitant’s claim in terms of section 28 of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 and a separate action seeking an order for division and sale of heritable property.
  • Defence of Sheriff Court action for Interdicts and Exclusion Order.
  • Defence of highly acrimonious relocation case from one Sheriff Court jurisdiction to another approximately five hours away.

Anderson Strathern

Anderson Strathern's practice acts for high-net-worth individuals, private clients and local authorities and has particular strength in cross-border divorce proceedings where assets are held in multiple countries. The team also shows a depth of knowledge with cohabitation cases and niche experience advising clients on surrogacy options and the transfer of embryos from one jurisdiction to another. Practice head Janice Jones, an accredited specialist in family law, has a strong reputation in the courts and handles the full spectrum of family and child law matters for clients.

Practice head(s):

Janice Jones


‘I found Anderson Strathern’s professionalism and commitment to customer service set them apart from other firms. As well as providing excellent legal advice they engaged at an early stage to identify my preferred outcome and offered support and sound guidance throughout to achieve this.’

‘Janice Jones was first class. My situation was highly charged and at times I was ready to give in to unreasonable demands but Janice was unwavering. She was calm, measured, professional and at all times focused on my interests and that of my children. I would advise anyone dealing with a family law matter to retain the services of Anderson Strathern – they will not be disappointed.’

‘Janice Jones has very long-term experience, and is tenacious in pursuing her client’s cause. Her organisational skills and preparation stand out.’

Key clients

Fife Council

West Lothian Council

East Lothian Council

Blackadders LLP

Blackadders LLP's broad practice acts on a wide range of divorce, cohabitation and separation claims that often invoke disputes over child maintenance, residence and contact as well as complex investigations into assets. The team also handles wrongful retention cases and defends child protection orders and permanency orders, as well as being involved in some unusual cases in which divorce proceedings are pursued in different courts or across multiple jurisdictions. 'Charismatic and efficient' practice head Craig Samson is regularly instructed by local authorities to act as safeguarder to vulnerable children.

Practice head(s):

Craig Samson


‘A depth of experience and skills within the team ensures we have access to a specialist as required.’

‘Craig Samson is a good technical lawyer with excellent soft skills in mediation and collaborative practice’

‘Craig Samson is charismatic, efficient, and technically knowledgeable. He has wide experience of conducting litigations of all sorts in the Sheriff Court and is well known for his presentational abilities. He builds strong relationships with clients, who come to rely on his practical advice.’

Harper Macleod LLP

Harper Macleod LLP handles a wide range of financial provision matters, involving elements such as economic disadvantage claims, the division of shared company assets, awards of ailment, and parties living in multiple jurisdictions. The team also deals with cohabitation matters and disputes concerning residency, child support and adoption. 'Standout family lawyer' Jenny Smith, who is dual qualified in Scotland and England, advises clients on prenuptial agreements and cohabitation disputes, while senior associate Nadine Martin, who joined the firm in 2018, led the response by the Glasgow Bar Association to the Scottish Government's Consultation Paper on reform of the Children (Scotland) Act.

Practice head(s):

Amanda Masson

Other key lawyers:

Jenny Smith; Nadine Martin


‘Increasing strength in depth and an excellent range of partners who are leaders in their field.’

‘Harper Macleod distinguish themselves by their commitment to social and policy issues in family law as well as their commitment to their clients.’ 

‘Jenny Smith is a standout family lawyer. She searches out the best outcomes for her clients but always in a dignified way.’ 

‘Amanda Masson is an excellent practitioner. She runs complex cases with ability and sympathy.’

Work highlights

  • Represented wife in high net worth separation.
  • Acting for husband in a separation following a short marriage in relation to financial provision.
  • Acting for the husband who was a defender in divorce proceedings raised at Sheriff court where main asset was a partnership owned by both parties.

MTM Family Law

MTM Family Law's boutique, collaborative family law practice predominantly acts for high-net-worth individuals in cases arising from divorce, separation, and the dissolution of civil partnerships. These matters typically involve complex disputes over property division and source of funds arguments, as well as the distribution of shared business assets. In the contentious space, the team has defended relocation orders and Exclusion Appeals on behalf of clients. 'Pragmatic and empathetic' practice head Shona Templeton is frequently instructed by Glasgow Sheriff Court to prepare reports for Child Welfare cases and regular acts in separation cases where clients have significant commercial assets.

Practice head(s):

Shona Templeton; Carolyn MacBride


‘A niche practice which excellent at what it does in the family law field.’

‘Integrated services, outstanding communication and genuine individual attention to client needs.’

‘The founding partners Shona Templeton and Carolyn MacBride are excellent litigators and at the forefront of alternative methods of resolution including collaborative work and mediation.’

‘Carolyn MacBride is straight-talking and fair in her dealings with other solicitors, while still providing robust representation for her clients.’

‘Shona Templeton is an outstanding collaborative lawyer. She is pragmatic, empathetic and straightforward. She is a pleasure to work with in all respects even in the most challenging cases.’ 

Thorntons Law LLP

Thorntons Law LLP's family law team handles a high volume of difficult divorce and cohabitation matters, involving complex tax considerations, investigations into the financial affairs of partners, and disputes over matrimonial property. The team also regularly represents clients pursuing or defending contact and relocation orders, and demonstrates particular expertise managing such cases where clients have suffered abuse during the course of their relationship.

Practice head(s):

Sandra Sutherland; Gordon McBean

Work highlights

  • Represented an elderly client in a complex financial provision matter against her estranged husband.
  • Advising and representing a client in a cross-border matter to gain child contact, where the client’s children had been taken away by his wife.
  • Represented a client in an unusual case involving cohabiting financial settlement claims.
  • Handled an unusual financial family law matter involving establishing marriage status in connection with tax demands.
  • Helping a client facing the potential relocation of their child to another country.


BLM 's team of 'true specialists' work particularly well with difficult financial cases, such as divorce proceedings involving allegations of domestic abuse, the division of assets held in multiple countries, and a novel civil partnership dissolution that raised a dispute about the ownership of embryos. In terms of child law, the practice advises clients on residence disputes, contact orders and exclusions orders - in one highly contentious matter, former practice head Siobhan Kelly was instructed as child welfare reporter to represent the interests of a child facing the prospect of foster care. Caroline Gillespie - who is 'always a step ahead of the opposition' has particular expertise in international child relocation and cohabitation cases.

Practice head(s):

Caroline Gillespie

Other key lawyers:

Siobhan Kelly


‘Caroline Gillespie is on the ball and always a step ahead of the opposition.’

‘The team has a great breadth of experience and diversity of knowledge, and an excellent reputation.’

‘Passionate about their clients’ outcomes, Siobhan Kelly and Caroline Gillespie both stand out.  Both have a huge knowledge base and are very well respected within the industry.’

Digby Brown LLP

Digby Brown LLP has carved out a specialism in pursuing contested adoption orders for clients, leading to a string of successful adoptions. Besides this line of work the firm has a reputation for advising high net worth individuals on prenuptial agreements and in representing clients in divorce proceedings, often with international aspects such as parties who reside in different countries. 'Charismatic and knowledgeable' associate Roger Mackenzie, who joined the firm in 2015 to set up the family law team, regularly acts in cases involving valuations of business interests. Sue Grant advises Scottish Adoption and sits on the Board of Clan Child Law.

Practice head(s):

Roger Mackenzie

Other key lawyers:

Sue Grant

Gilson Gray

Gilson Gray’s family law team, which was set up in mid-2017, has built up a strong foothold in advising clients on asset protection and negotiating the terms of prenuptial agreements, as well as handling high value divorce proceedings concerning economic disadvantage arguments and property transfers. Practice head Philippa Cunniff, who is a Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, specialises in advising clients following relationship breakdowns and deals with intra-UK forum disputes.

Practice head(s):

Philippa Cunniff

Other key lawyers:

Sally Nash


‘My solicitor was exceptionally supportive and worked hard to resolve matters. She provided excellent advice and took a strong and firm line in negotiations.’

‘Philippa Cunniff has provided a friendly and very supportive service during a protracted period whilst dealing with my wife and her solicitor. I cannot speak highly enough about her response to my difficulties. I have complete confidence in her.’

‘Sally Nash is not only a consummate professional, but a genuinely nice woman. I value the fact that Sally always listens attentively and sympathetically. She manages to be sympathetic and personable as well as been an excellent lawyer.’

‘Philippa Cunniff is vastly experienced, has great legal knowledge and is fantastic with clients.’

Patience and Buchan

Patience and Buchan's boutique family law practice represents high net worth individuals in divorce cases that involve disputes over awards of ailment, source of funds arguments and complex investigations into assets held overseas. The team also handles intra-UK relocation and contact matters concerning children and cohabitation claims, defending assertions of economic disadvantage. Founding partner Lorna Buchan, who is accredited in both family Law and mediation, is committed to resolving disputes - in particular those arising from divorce or child care - through mediation.

Practice head(s):

Lorna Buchan

Other key lawyers:

Ashley Simpson


‘A well respected and knowledgeable local firm of family lawyers.’

‘Lorna Buchan is a highly able litigator who is well respected by the bench and colleagues alike.’