David Williams QC
“He is completely meticulous and is an extremely able advocate. One of the best Hague Convention specialists.”
Chambers & Partners 2017
Year of Call: 1990
Year of Silk: 2013
Trustee of Children and Families Across Borders
With over 24 years experience behind him David is a specialist family law barrister with particular expertise in children cases with an international dimension. Leave to remove, jurisdictional disputes, abduction and enforcement issues are areas of expertise but David also acts in private law disputes and has a particular interest in cases where there are psychological issues, such as personality disorders and parental alienation. David can also handle the financial dimension of family breakdown. With the ever-growing trend of cross-border movement of children who are the subject of child protection enquiries David has also developed considerable experience of public law cases where either jurisdiction is in issue or where a cross-border placement is anticipated.
His approach combines rigorous analysis and preparation and an emphasis on seeking a consensual resolution where practical with a robust presentation of the case when agreement proves impossible.
David was called to the Bar in 1990 and for the first 10 years practiced in family, crime and personal injury cases. During this time he gained extensive trial experience (including successful defences at the Old Bailey) dealing with the most serious cases including fraud, rape, serious brain injury and sexual abuse. In 2000 David moved to 4 Paper Buildings and began to specialise in Family Law. He was appointed Queens Counsel in March 2013. He has considerable experience in cases where expert evidence whether medical, legal, accountancy or otherwise is involved.
Over the last 14 years at 4 Paper Buildings David has developed a practice which covers all aspects of family law; in particular relating to children. David has particular expertise in and advises and appears on behalf of clients in the following categories of cases,
- relocation (permanent and temporary and internal),
- disputes about who children should live with and other private law disputes, in particular but not limited to those with a psychological component or some international dimension.
- jurisdictional conflict cases – covering children and divorce,
- reciprocal enforcement of orders and mirror orders
- incoming and outgoing abductions (Hague and non-Hague),
- international aspects of public law cases, in particular issues connected with placements of children abroad,
- Forced marriage and stranded spouse cases,
David also has experience of and can act in a wide range of other family cases including adoption, financial remedies, recognition of foreign divorces, surrogacy, 1984 MFPA cases for financial remedies after a foreign divorce.
He has particular experience in the operation of BIIR and other European Regulations, the 1980 and 1996 Hague Conventions and other international instruments. His practice has given him wide experience in the laws of many other countries, in particular countries where Sharia law applies. He is a Member of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and through this and his practice he has extensive contacts with family lawyers from a wide range of other countries.
In the last 4 years he has appeared in the only two cases from England to be referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union (Mercredi-v-Chaffe and E-v-B) and the first child abduction case to be heard by the UK Supreme Court (Re E). He was awarded the Chambers and Partners Family Junior of the Year award in October 2011 and nominated for the Family Law International Family Lawyer award in October 2013.
However David’s practice is far from exclusively about international cases. He is regularly instructed in sensitive or complex private law cases, whether it concerns child arrangement orders, or specific issues relating to education or health. He has a particular interest in cases where parental alienation, personality disorders or substance misuse are involved.
David is also a qualified mediator, including being trained in and being approved by the Ministry of Justice to conduct Mediation Information and Assessment meetings. He is able to mediate in not only in children cases but also in finance cases and indeed all issues cases. These will usually be conducted as a sole mediator but in accordance with the Hague Mediation Good Practice Guide David will co-mediate on abduction and on some re-location cases. For abduction and relocation cases David has arrangements with two mediators who have legal aid mediation contracts and so there is the opportunity to co-mediate these cases under legal aid cover.
David acts for parents and children, for local authorities and for charities and his practice covers most tribunals from the Central Family Court to the ECHR. He represented the Applicant father in the Court of Justice of the European Union in 2010 and 2014 and acted for the Plaintiff father in the House of Lords in Re M in 2007. He appeared for the Respondent mother in Re E in the UK Supreme Court in 2011 and was instructed as part of a team to file an amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court. In 2002 he appeared for the Applicant in the ECtHR when that Court held that the UK was in breach of the ECHR in respect of its treatment of trans-sexuals. He regularly appears in the Court of Appeal and has appeared in many other reported cases with an international dimension. David has an interest and particular experience in representing children in cases with an international dimension. He has been active in ensuring that an appropriate balance is struck in allowing their voice to be heard whilst seeking to protect them from adult disputes. He appeared in the leading cases in this field including Re M (in the House of Lords) Re C (Abduction: Separate Representation of Children)  2 FLR 6 and Re J (Abduction: Children’s Objections)  1 FLR 457.
As a result of his extensive experience he has been instructed to act in other countries as an expert on English family Law. Prior to being called to the Bar he worked for the Legal Services Commission for three years and he is committed to ensuring that publicly funded clients are able to compete on a level playing field.
David lectures and writes regularly. He is currently presenting a series of lectures to the Judicial College on international issues in public law cases having previously presented seminars to High Court and Court of Appeal judges on the 1996 Hague Convention and habitual residence. Other recent lectures include ‘Where shall we divorce dear?’, ‘Family Fortune: an international family in breakdown’, a seminar with the English Central Authority,. In April 2013 he made a presentation on Preliminary References to the CJEU to Italian, Bulgarian, Croatian and Slovenian family judges at the European Research Academy. He spoke at the Centre for Family Law and Practice Inaugural Conference on International Family Law and regularly presents lectures and webinars on relevant topics. He has had articles published in International Family Law, Family Law, New Law Journal and others.
David is a member of the Professional Conduct Committee of the Bar Standards Board.
His other interests include membership of the Society of Labour Lawyers, of which he is a member of the Executive Committee and Chair of the Family Law Group. Cycling, vintage motorbikes and history keep him out of trouble at weekends.
Family Law Bar Association
International Academy of Family Lawyers
Alternative Dispute Resolution Group
Bar Pro Bono Unit
A leading silk widely respected for his knowledge regarding complex applications of the Hague Convention. He has appeared in both the Supreme Court and the ECJ.
Strengths: “He is completely meticulous and is an extremely able advocate. One of the best Hague Convention specialists.”
Recent work: Engaged in a Supreme Court case seeking to establish a new legal framework for the exercising of wardship jurisdiction based upon the nationality of a child.
Chambers & Partners, 2017
‘A master in his field’
Legal 500, 2016
Known for his willingness to push the boundaries of international private law children work. He is “respected for pursuing novel points of law and not taking the easy route.”
Strengths: “He is brilliant with clients, very calm and very insightful, and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of children law. He is a very good advocate.” “He is just extraordinarily brilliant at international cases, and thinks outside the box.”
Recent work: Involved in Re E, the first Hague Convention case to have gone to the Supreme Court. The Court gave a judgement on the ‘best interest’ aspects of the convention.
Chambers & Partners 2016
‘He is a fearless advocate, and has a wonderful manner with clients which always puts them at ease.’
The Legal 500, 2015
A specialist in international law relating to children, who is particularly strong on complex cross-border abductions and relocation cases involving both Hague and non-Hague jurisdictions.
Expertise: “He is just superb. He’s got a very good manner with clients and solicitors, and when it comes to overall tactical skills he’s very good.”
Recent work: Was instructed in the first appeal to the Supreme Court in a Hague Convention case relating to the ‘best interests’ of children under Article 13.
Chambers & Partners 2015
Has established himself as a go-to advocate for Hague Convention matters, and is particularly noted for his strengths in cases involving abductions and reciprocal enforcement.
Expertise: “A favourite for complex jurisdictional disputes, he knows the technical issues really well.”
Recent work: Successfully handled a case in the Court of Appeal regarding the proper interpretation of ‘habitual residence’ in Hague Convention cases.
Chambers & Partners 2014
New silk David Williams QC combines ‘a cerebral approach with encyclopaedic knowledge of both domestic and European points of law.’
Recommended as a New Silk in the area of Children Law
Legal 500, 2013
David Williams has a fine reputation in the field of international children law, and tackles cases relating to Hague and non-Hague Convention abductions, reciprocal enforcement and relocation. Sources note his immense “enthusiasm and vigour” when tackling cases, and agree that he is a “very impressive and knowledgeable leading junior in abduction,” who is “excellent with clients.”
Chambers & Partners 2013
Recommended as a Leading Family Junior in The Legal 500, 2012
The “extremely hard-working” David Williams, meanwhile, is praised as “one of the best junior child abduction barristers in the country.” He garners plaudits.
Chambers and Partners 2012
David Williams is a ‘recognised expert’
The Legal 500, 2011
David Williams, who has an ever-growing reputation for Hague Convention work.
Chambers and Partners 2011
The ‘insightful’ David Williams ‘really knows his stuff’.
The Legal 500, 2010
David Williams, a lawyer who has carved a niche for himself in Hague Convention matters. Williams has a large number of reported cases under his belt and is known his “extreme perspicacity.”
Chambers and Partners 2010
Recommended as a Leading Family junior in The Legal 500, 2009
David Williams is recommended for his burgeoning International child abduction practice. He is praised for his “calm and efficient” demeanor and his “sensitivity to clients’ needs.”
Chambers & Partners 2009
David Williams… ‘comes highly recommended’.
Legal 500, 2008