FAMILY law firm Margaret Bennett has been hit by a wave of departures.

The five-partner firm will lose two partners, an associate and an assistant in the space of two months, one of whom is dropping from partner to assistant status in his move.

Renowned child abduction and international custody dispute specialist Anne-Marie Hutchinson has left the partnership after only six months to join Dawson Cornwell & Co as a partner. She has been joined there by her assistant, Helen Kings.

Hutchinson said she had 'a long-standing relationship' with her new firm, which she joined on 1 January. Dawsons managing partner Rhiannon Lewis said Hutchinson would expand the firm's children's law and mediation work.

It is understood that a personality clash between Hutchinson and managing partner Margaret Bennett is one reason for her departure.

Partner David Sterrett is moving to City firm Maxwell Batley, which he will join as an assistant next month after six years at Bennetts. He will single-handedly launch and run a family law department, to be attached to the private client department under Maxwells partner Frank O'Shea.

Bennetts associate Nicole Hackett leaves the firm next week to join Rooks Rider in February as an assistant working in the ancillary relief area of family law.

Bennett said she and Hutchinson had got on well but had 'mutually decided that our practices were incompatible as hers is legal aid and mine is not.'

Hackett and Sterrett had left as 'natural wastage' to join bigger firms, she added. She said: 'I am sorry to see them go and the practice is doing well.'