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Focus on our family law team at Clarke Willmott

Our dedicated teams work hard to look after clients, whatever their legal needs. Our broad expertise across the firm means that anyone of our lawyers has access to a network of experts who can be recommended to ensure you are receiving the best holistic legal care at the right time. 

In this series, we’re showcasing the individuals who make up our talented team. We’re speaking with our legal experts to learn more about their areas of expertise, what they enjoy most about their work, and how they work together to provide exceptional legal care to our clients. 

Our family law team works with clients who have complex cases, often involving considerable wealth, at important and emotional times in their lives. They can help with divorce, prenuptial agreements, cohabitation agreements, estate planning and much more.

We spoke to Chris Longbottom – partner and head of the family law team at Clarke Willmott. We asked Chris about the work of the team, and how they leverage relationships with other teams at Clarke Willmott to provide a complete service for clients.

How does our family law team support its clients?

As a team we have years of experience that make us well placed to help you navigate and understand the variety of decisions that need to be made with multiple factors at play.

If you have assets to protect, for yourself or future generations, it is best to be proactive. We help our clients prepare for possible future scenarios, and we can also assist parents of children who will inherit assets with wealth management. If you find yourself in an unexpected situation, we are also well versed in acting reactively, to support divorce or custody cases and disputes.

How do you work with other teams to help clients?

In family law, we have many points of contact with other legal teams at Clarke Willmott. Being part of a firm that practises in so many different areas means that we can meet many of our clients’ needs with support from our experienced colleagues.

Our clients can count on us to do the work for them, and to utilise the relationships we have within the firm, to ensure that all their needs are catered for.

Why would you recommend Clarke Willmott’s family law lawyers?

At Clarke Willmott we pride ourselves on taking a holistic view to a client’s circumstances. We don’t expect the client to be an expert or know exactly what they need. All you need to do is ask for help and we do the rest. Beyond the immediate case, the relationships we have with lawyers across the firm mean we can help you with anything else that might be impacted further down the line, like changing a will or advising on an affected business.

I see my work in three parts. Part one is deciding how best I can help, part two is actually doing it, and part three is empowering clients with the right information on what their future looks like.


Many forget the third step, or feel it’s less important, which can lead to complaints where clients do not understand the outcome or their future. We work with clients who may have had a big life change. For someone who comes into a large sum of money for any variety of reasons, it can be difficult to understand what an amount of money means for their life and future. A big part of our job is ensuring that our clients know how best to manage their money, so they don’t end up feeling short-changed. We therefore work closely with financial advisors to assist the client after ‘our job is done’. We often stay in touch with a client for years to come, which is lovely.

Legal fees can be expensive, but the overwhelming majority of our clients feel it was worth it, particularly when they know the value and impact our work has had on their future asset base. With Clarke Willmott, they know they’re paying for expertise and the reassurance that their whole case will be taken care of.


What misconceptions do you often hear about family law?

Prenups aren't really worth anything

Prenuptial agreements are not legally binding in this country, but if they are prepared properly, then the court is unlikely to interfere with them on divorce. If the court concludes that the prenuptial agreement is fair and sees that you are both consenting adults who signed the agreement with the assistance of lawyers and with other requirements met, it is unlikely to intervene.

There is nothing wrong with ring-fencing assets, but the agreement must consider the reasonable needs of both parties and any children. A prenuptial agreement must be prepared properly and ultimately be capable of being considered as being ‘fair’ in the eyes of family law. To ensure this, specialist legal advice is strongly recommended.

Automatic common law marriage rights

Another common misconception is that in long-term unmarried relationships, you have automatic rights to share assets in a ‘common law marriage’, but this is not the case. You could have paid half the mortgage on a house for 20 years, but without evidence of a common intention that both parties would benefit, you may not be entitled to a share of the house.

If you have done something over and above what someone renting the property would do, like paying for work on the house, you may be entitled to more, but you may need to demonstrate evidence of some kind of agreement that says this entitles you to a share of the property.

Is shared care of children a 50/50 split?

It is often assumed that shared care (or ‘shared custody; as it is often called) of children means a 50/50 split, but this is rarely the case. The legal starting point is the best interests of the child, so shared care may look different from case to case. It may mean that the child spends weekdays with one parent and weekends with the other, but it may also look like alternating weeks or anything in between. If the parents live far apart or even in different countries, the child may be with one parent during term time and the other during school holidays.

In court, the parents’ wishes are second to the child’s needs. If the child is of an age and (importantly) understands the implications of the decisions they make, he or she may have a direct say in the division of care which would be taken into account by the court if the parents cannot agree.

How did you come to this area of law?

I was the first person in my family to attend university. Everyone in my family were builders, plasterers or similar and I assisted them as I grew up. At school I was good at art, maths and science, so the plan was to become an architect to follow on from my family’s work. The school pushed me to take maths and science at A level, but I always asked to go on the English and history trips because I really loved those subjects.

I went to university to study accounting, and I had the opportunity to take law as one of my modules. I found the law degree to be very similar to a history degree, a subject I loved, so I quickly switched to major in law and graduated with a law and accounting degree.

I was then lucky enough to get work experience with a local firm while I was studying, and they offered me a training contract after I graduated. On the first day of my contract, I stood alone in court advocating for a client – they threw me in at the deep end. You quickly realise what type of lawyer you are and how client-facing you want to be. I really enjoy working closely with clients, and that’s why family law appealed to me.

What do you love about your team?

I think the whole team has a similar attitude about why they do what they do. We care about every single person who walks through the door, and we really enjoy helping people in need. We’ve had clients who were turned away by other firms for having complicated cases. We’ve taken them in and committed to helping them wherever we can, with great success.

We have assisted clients who have nothing after the breakdown of their relationship and have young children to care for while the other parent is incredibly wealthy. Working on matters where every penny counts, and the outcome assures economic security for the client and their children, is very rewarding.

What do you love about your job?

It can be a difficult job. We work with people who are at a low point in their lives. We become a shoulder to cry on – sometimes we’re the only person in a client’s life who knows all the details of what is happening.

Having a real and positive impact on our clients’ lives and futures is very rewarding and our aim in every matter regardless of the values involved. We’ve been contacted by clients years after our work, telling us about how their lives have positively moved on for themselves and their children which is lovely.

I once had a terminally ill client who was going through a divorce. I attended his funeral and I was so grateful to hear from his family that he didn’t have to worry about the divorce during his illness because he knew it was being taken care of. It also meant that he was able to marry his partner before he died; it was wonderful that we helped make that happen and help that family during a very difficult time.


Your key contact

Meet our wider family law team

With offices across the UK the team is on hand to meet clients personally across the country. They were recently praised by Chambers and Partners for being “.. thoroughly impressive from top to bottom, from excellent trainees through to partners”

Meet the team

More on this topic

Divorce and family law

Fair shares and non marital assets

Bristol University and the Nuffield Foundation have recently released their report, “Fair shares? Sorting out money and property on divorce”.
Read more on Fair shares and non marital assets

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