Sarah Williams > Payne Hicks Beach LLP > London, England > Lawyer Profile

Payne Hicks Beach LLP

Work Department



Sarah is a partner in the Payne Hicks Beach Family department and head of Modern Family Law.

Sarah has extensive experience in all children law matters, often with an international and public law dimension, and a Court of Protection practice concerning vulnerable and incapacitous individuals.  Sarah also has expertise in all aspects of modern family law, encompassing matters such as domestic and international surrogacy arrangements, adoption, donor conception and issues concerning parentage. Her practice operates at the cutting-edge of family law and, as such, often intersects with matters of public policy and human rights. She is described as being “brilliant on the law” and ranked by The Legal 500 UK 2023 as a “Next Generation Partner” and “a stand-out individual”.

Sarah advises on complex, ultra-high net worth, high profile, multi-party sensitive children law matters with serious welfare considerations including, domestic abuse, coercive controlling behaviour, high-conflict disputes, alienating behaviours, abduction, international and domestic relocation of children and health and welfare disputes concerning vulnerable individuals, including those concerning capacity, gender and decisions regarding serious medical treatment.

Sarah is prolific legal commentator; recently being invited to speak at a European Chapter meeting for the International Academy of Family Lawyers, The Law Society and at international forums. She is an annual contributing author for the International Comparative Legal Guide (Family Law), regularly contributes to esteemed domestic and international family law journals, the legal press and is a University Guest Lecturer on Family Law and Ethics.

Sarah spent the first decade of her career as a practising private and public family law Barrister at a leading set of chambers representing parents, children, guardians, Local Authorities and the Official Solicitor in complex and sensitive children law cases. Sarah’s practice included those concerning serious medical issues such as FII, non-accidental injuries to children, international adoption, international abduction, enforcement of foreign orders, international and domestic relocation of children and cases involving vulnerable adults. Appointed Junior Counsel to the Crown.

2023 Notable reported case: Re S (Inherent Jurisdiction: Transgender Surgery Abroad) [2023] EWHC 347. Acting Pro Bono for the primary carer in this case of significant public interest before The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane. The case concerned the validity of an adolescent’s consent to transgender surgery, wardship, competing medical and legal positions here and in an anonymised foreign jurisdiction, issues of human rights and domestic public policy and the appropriate engagement of the Inherent Jurisdiction of the High Court.

2023 Speaking engagements:

The Law Society Cross Border Event: New Challenges for Private Clients in Europe – Modern Families (co-presenter)

Guys and St. Thomas’ Medical School: Lectures on Family Law and Ethics and Parentage, Capacity and Consent

Podcast with My Surrogacy Journey ‘Family Building via Surrogacy for those in the Public Eye’.

2023 Publications:

International Comparative Legal Guide: (Expert Chapter)

Family Law Journal. Lifting the Veil: Donor Identification. Co-authored with Jennifer Lee, Barrister  Lifting the veil: donor identification (

Revista (Numero 83, Espana): La gestación por subrogación en Europa: situación jurídica y enfoque comparativo entre Inglaterra y Gales, Francia, Italia y España. Co-author

2022 Notable reported case: R v S [2022] EWFC 65

Acting for the mother in response to an “unprecedented” application by the father for the disclosure of internal CCTV footage from mother’s home. The application raised grave issues concerning competing ECHR Art 6 and Art 8 rights. The father’s Application was successfully dismissed.

2022 Speaking engagements, include:

International Academy of Family Lawyers, European Chapter Meeting, Athens ‘Modern Family Law Developments’

Guys and St. Thomas’ Medical School: Family Law and Ethics in 2022

Guys and St. Thomas’ Medical School: Addressing Issues of Capacity in 2022

Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Medical School: The Changing Face of Motherhood in 2022

An Examination of Modern Family Creation and Family Forms in 2022: Comparative European Approaches to Parentage, Payne Hicks Beach International Legal Event

2022 Publications, include:

International Comparative Legal Guide: (Expert Chapter)

International Family Law Journal: The Legal Status of Surrogacy in Europe – co-author. 

STEP Journal: ‘Legal Conceptions’ (Issue 2) – file:///I:/028000/0135/Docs/Private/PublicMarketing/OldWebsite/]

AJ Famille, France: Le statut Légal de la gestation pour autrui en Europe – co-author.

My Surrogacy Journey blog: What’s in store for international surrogacy? file:///I:/028000/0135/Docs/Private/PublicMarketing/OldWebsite/

2021 Speaking Engagements, include:

‘High-Conflict Parenting Disputes – new approaches’. In association with OurFamilyWizard –

Informa Middle East: ‘What Constitutes a Family: Working with non-traditional family structures relating to children’

Informa Bermuda: ‘Working with non-traditional family structures’

Informa Cross Border Planning: Europe/International: ‘What constitutes a family?’ –

Chair of International Movement of Children Event, following the Supreme Court Decision G V G UKSC2020/0191

TL4 Private Client: Succession Planning for Modern Families-

Guy’s & St Thomas’ Medical School: Family Law and Ethics in 2021

Guy’s & St Thomas’ Medical School: Addressing Issues of Capacity in 2021

TL4: Sudden Incapacity: Legal Implications under the Prevalence of Covid

MSJ: Surrogacy in the USA: Where to Start?

Men Having Babies European Conference in Brussels: Parenting Options from an English Perspective: [file:///I:/028000/0135/Docs/Private/PublicMarketing/OldWebsite/]

2021 Publications include:

International Comparative Legal Guide: (Expert Chapter)

Family Law: Covid-19 vaccination: Capacity and Best Interests – the first reported Court of Protection Judgment

Family Law: Childhood vaccination disputes in the era of COVID 19

Capacity and sexual relations. Co-author. TL4

Tatler: The Heir and the Spare: or are they? Co-author –

ThoughtLeaders4PrivateClient magazine February 2021 Issue 3: Capacity & Sexual relations – a radical reassessment – co-author

Future Lawyer blog lawbore: Surrogacy during a global pandemic –

Podcasts: Winner Gold Award CityWealth Best Podcast

A series of award winning Modern Family Law Podcasts:

International Surrogacy: A Guide to New York  file:///I:/028000/0135/Docs/Private/PublicMarketing/OldWebsite/ -]

International Surrogacy: A Guide to Florida –

International Surrogacy: A Guide to California –

International Surrogacy: An Intended Parent’s Perspective –

The Truth behind Egg Freezing – The truth behind egg freezing – Sarah Williams and Professor Joyce Harper – file:///I:/028000/0135/Docs/Private/PublicMarketing/OldWebsite/]

Donor Gametes: Where to start? –

2000 Publications include:

STEP Journal: The Parentage Trap. Co-author.]

Family Law: Surrogacy in Unusual Circumstances: X, Re [2020] EWFC 39 and ]

Family Law Journal: Eyes Wide Open: Transparency in the Family Courts

Family Law: Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust v AB [2020] EWCOP 40

The Times: Landmark ruling restricts puberty blockers for children

2020 Speaking Engagements, include:

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Professional Development Conference: The Changing Face of Motherhood

2020 Press interviews/comments include:

The Guardian: ‘Parents fight in Court over whether children should return to school in England’

Financial Times: Navigating the lockdown causes stepfamilies further stress:





Professional Memberships include:

Chair, Bar Liaison Committee, Inner Temple

Executive Committee, Inner Temple

Bencher Nomination Committee, Inner Temple

Annual Guest Lecturer: Law and Ethics at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (Medical Foundation Programme).

Family Ambassador Board Member: Support Through Court Charity

Family Law Bar Association

Association of Lawyers for Children

American Bar Association (Adoption Committee and the Assisted Reproduction Technology Committee)

Member of the Franco-British Lawyers Society/Association des Juristes Franco Britanniques

Member of International Bar Association

Union Internationale des Avocats

Court of Protection Practitioners Association



Bristol University: History BA (Hons)

Lawyer Rankings

London > Private client > Family

(Next Generation Partners)

Sarah Williams – Payne Hicks Beach LLP

The strength and prestige of the Payne Hicks Beach LLP team is peerless’. It is led by Rebecca Cockcroft, whose ‘forensic approach to cases is extremely effective, and she always goes the extra mile for clients’. The lawyers are at the ‘top of their game’ with ‘strength and depth across the board and are involved in some of the biggest cases’. Baroness Fiona Shackleton is praised for her ‘extraordinary judgment and tactical acumen’ and has been described as ‘the doyenne of ultra-high-net-worth financial remedies work’. The practice is highly regarded for its considerable expertise in handling both high-net-worth financial remedies and children law matters, and the group is frequently instructed in high-profile cases that appear in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. Philip McGuirk has a busy practice in post and pre-nuptial agreements, which often involve a cross-jurisdictional element. Ben Parry-Smith covers all aspects of financial remedy work, while Sarah Williams is the head of the modern family law practice and Simon Beccle has extensive experience of dealing with complex financial cases. Other highly regarded members of the department include Matthew Booth, Nick Manners, Katie Parkes, and Catherine Costley. Joshua Moger was recently promoted to the partnership, and senior associate Amy Barrow joined the practice from Dawson Cornwell LLP in April 2023.