Ronan O'Donovan

Specialist in:

Ronan is regularly instructed in private law matters.  He has considerable experience in representing not just parents in these disputes but other interested parties – including the children themselves (either directly or through a Children’s Guardian).

Ronan’s practice often includes challenging cases involving, for example, alleged implacable hostility / parental alienation, serious allegations of harm (e.g. of sexual or physical abuse), and applications for permission to remove children permanently from the jurisdiction. These cases usually involve the cross-examination of experts and other professionals and Ronan brings to them a specialist forensic knowledge and skill associated with his public law practice.

In respect of less contentious private law disputes, Ronan works to provide his clients with the advice and representation needed to secure an effective and workable outcome for them.

Ronan appears in the full spectrum of public law children cases, including care and supervision order applications, contested placement and adoption order applications and applications for the discharge of such orders.  He specialises in complex cases including issues of non-accidental injury and sexual abuse, factitious induced illness, mental health and substance misuse problems, and learning difficulties.

Ronan represents all categories of party and intervener in these proceedings and has also acted as leader to more junior barristers. He brings a flexibility of approach that permits him to represent effectively a wide variety of clients, from the most vulnerable of parents to corporate bodies.

Reported cases
30th November 2021 | Bailii

N (Children: Refusal of Placement Orders), Court of Appeal, [2021] EWCA Civ 1652

A local authority, supported by the Children’s Guardian, appeals from the refusal of its application for placement orders in respect of children aged 2 and almost 4 who are presently in foster care. The Judge held that, despite many severe difficulties, it was better for the children to be returned to their mother under care orders, with restrictions on their father’s contact, than for them to be placed for adoption. The key issues are (a) whether there is any prospect of those restrictions being observed and, accordingly, whether the Judge should have refused to make placement orders and (b) having refused to make placement orders, whether the Judge should have made final or interim orders.

29th September 2017 | Bailii

H (A Child: Hair Strand Testing) [2017] EWFC 64

The leading authority in respect of the reliability of hair strand testing for drugs and how the results of hair tests should be interpreted by practitioners.  Ronan O’Donovan appeared on behalf of Lextox, one of the laboratories intervening in ongoing care proceedings where the issue of the mother’s use of drugs was called into dispute by a trichologist.  Peter Jackson J held that the variability of findings from hair strand testing does not call into question the underlying science, but underlines the need to treat numerical data with proper caution.

13th August 2015 | Jordan's

Re S (Appeal: Preparation of Skeleton Argument) [2016] 2 FLR 965; [2015] EWCA Civ 1015

Ronan O’Donovan, leading Ewan Murray, represented the Local Authority in this appeal, brought by a father against the making of a Care Order.  The appeal was dismissed and, in so doing, the Court of Appeal criticised the way in which the appeal was presented on behalf of the father.  The father had hitherto been a self-representing litigant but, when such a litigant secures the services of counsel, he or she should seek permission to serve a single, composite skeleton argument which incorporates all the submissions which counsel proposes to advance.  The detail of the submissions made at this appeal was not set out in writing, despite calls from the respondents to do so, and this had the effect of ambushing the Court and respondents

4th October 2013 | Bailii

X Local Authority v Trimega Laboratories & Others [2013] EWCC 6 (Fam)

Order for costs made against Trimega Laboratories following erroneous hair strand testing results being returned in respect of a mother.

15th July 2013 | Bailii

Re J & R (Children) [2013] EWHC 4100 (Fam)

Application by parents within a Placement Order application to adduce further medical evidence to challenge findings against them that they had caused non-accidental injury to their son.

21st December 2010 | Jordan's

Re K (Care Proceedings: Fact Finding) [2010] EWHC 3342 (Fam); [2011] 2 FLR 199

Care proceedings — Fact-finding hearing — Whether necessary for risk assessment purposes — Extent to which risk assessment could be undertaken in relation to ‘uncertain perpetrator’.

15th June 2006 | Jordan's

Re P-B (Placement Order) [2006] EWCA Civ 1016; [2007] 1 FLR 1106

Adoption — Placement order application — Local authority acting as adoption agency — Approval by appointed officer to precede application for placement order.


Ronan appears in the Court of Protection in cases involving both welfare and deprivation of liberty decisions as well as disputes over property and affairs. He has a special interest in the crossover between the Court of Protection and the Family Court.

Ronan is instructed in all aspects of family finance work, including matrimonial finance and disputes between cohabitants. He has particular experience of representing family members and other interested parties who wish to intervene in such cases.

Ronan’s practice includes children cases with an international element. As well as applications for leave to remove children from the jurisdiction, he has represented parties in applications under Brussels II revised and the Hague Conventions, and in cases involving forced marriage and FGM.


Recorder (Family, South Eastern Circuit), 2019

What the directories say

“Regularly represents local authorities, guardians, parents and children in public and private law children cases, many of which involve inflicted injury, sexual and physical abuse and mental illness. He has specialist expertise in cases involving deprivation of liberty.”

“Handles clients in an empathetic manner, and is good at marshalling his arguments in a clear, concise way.”

“He’s approachable, always on top of his papers and someone who cuts through complex areas of law easily.”
Chambers & Partners 2022

“Ronan is an amazing and highly-skilled advocate. He is extremely knowledgeable in the practice area and speaks with authority. He has an ability to really challenge the other parties/experts in a very firm way without being disrespectful or rude. He works very collaboratively with his instructing solicitors and is available between hearings to assist and provide advice.”
The Legal 500 2022

“He presents himself calmly and has an aura of true professionalism.”

“An accomplished barrister with excellent client care skills, who offers great support to the instructing solicitor.”

“A detailed strategist who works as part of the team.”
Chambers & Partners 2021

“Has a raft of exceptional talents. His advocacy is clearly one of those talents and his skills in the courtroom are consistently impressive. He has used these skills to turn the tide on what might otherwise have appeared quite hopeless cases.”
The Legal 500 2021

“Fantastic when delaing with very difficult clients and gives sensible and practical advice.”
Chambers & Partners 2020


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Professional Memberships

Family Law Bar Association
Lincoln’s Inn