Family Law Team

Nic Kernahan | Director | Solicitor

Nic Kernahan started his life as a solicitor in the country – when he opened Johnston Withers’ Whyalla office in 1994.

That rural experience has shaped his practice – giving him wide experience in many aspects of the law; a focus on practical, sensible, cost-effective solutions; and a down to earth nature that his clients love.

Nic moved to the Adelaide office of Johnston Withers in 1997 and became a Director of the firm in 2005.

Nic has accumulated extensive experience in family law over his practicing life and also specializes in other areas which compliment family law, such as  criminal law, litigation and employment law. You can find him in our Adelaide and Murray Bridge Offices.


Vanessa Balnaves | Solicitor

Although Vanessa Balnaves decided at an early age to be a lawyer, she embarked instead on other pursuits. She travelled widely and gained skills in a range of fields, until that early ambition caught up with her and Vanessa returned to University to complete her Law Degree.

After graduating, Vanessa practised across all areas of law. In 2010 she commenced her own practice, specialising in Family Law and, we were delighted when she joined Johnston Withers to help head our Family Law team.

Vanessa’s wealth of knowledge not only in law but with people from all walks of life – gives her a broad perspective. She understands, and is sensitive to, the range of complex issues that arise in Family Law matters and the disruptions those issues can bring.

Vanessa has acted for clients from diverse cultural backgrounds and she approaches each person’s matter with genuine care and a commitment to providing practical advice and cost-effective outcomes.

Vanessa advises on all areas of Family Law and can help you with parenting and custody arrangements for children; property settlements; spousal maintenance; and Divorce. Vanessa can also assist you with creating pre – nuptial and financial agreements for married, separated, same sex or de facto couples.

Vanessa is in our Adelaide office, and you email her on


Jason Bell | Solicitor

Jason Bell is one of our leading family lawyers. He advises on all family law matters and has wide experience in the division of property under the Family Law Act including complex superannuation issues and farming and business entities.

Jason joined the firm in 2005 after over 20 years as a partner in a law firm in country Australia. That diverse experience allows him to act effectively for clients across a range of areas. It also equips him with the ability to spot an issue quickly and the judgment to help clients decide which issues to pursue. Calm and calming, he prides himself on his capacity to acknowledge the heightened emotions that often come with family breakdown while not letting emotions drive or derail progress to a solution.

In addition to his family law work, Jason plays a significant role in the commercial team where he advises in relation to estate and succession planning. Again, Jason is highly experienced in helping his farming and business clients find their way through the complexities of passing property down the generations.

Jason also provides advice in relation to estate administration, contested estates and complex probate matters.

He also advises in commercial and private property transactions including land and business sales, leases, mortgages and other securities and conveyancing.

You can find Jason in our Adelaide, Roxby &  Clare Offices-  you can email him on


Emma Wilkinson | Solicitor

Emma has been practicing in the area of family law for the last ten years.

She appears regularly in the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court for hearings relating to divorce, property settlement and children’s issues.

Emma values being of service to others and she compassionately represents her clients during some of the most difficult times in their lives.

Emma’s other areas of practice are wills & estates and criminal law. She also regularly represents clients charged with a variety of criminal charges such as driving charges, assaults, theft and drug matters.

Emma joined Johnston Withers in 2005, initially working in the Port Augusta office. While now based in Adelaide, she remains committed to the firm’s regional offices in Port Augusta and Roxby Downs. She maintains her practice in these areas and visits regularly.

You can find Emma in our Adelaide, Roxby & Port Augusta Offices –  you can email her on


Criminal Lawyers

Alex Hosking | Solicitor

Alex Hosking started with the firm as a clerk in 2014 and was admitted to practice, and appointed as a solicitor, later that year.

Country born and bred, he hailed originally from the Fleurieu Peninsula and spent his later schooling years between the Mid North and Adelaide. After experience in our Adelaide and Clare offices, Alex is now based in Port Augusta where he handles a variety of matters including criminal law, family law, commercial law, property law, employment matters, personal injuries, and wills and estates.

Alex enjoys working in general practice as it allows him to work in varying capacities and the challenges that come with it. He is a positive and energetic person with a strong client service ethic.

A talented sportsman, he has had a successful journey in Adelaide grade cricket with Tea Tree Gully and has represented South Australia Country at Australian Country Cricket Carnival’s across Australia.

Alex also enjoys his football and soccer, playing for various clubs across metropolitan and regional South Australia and the mateship that playing team sports bring with it.

You can find Alex in our Port Augusta Office – you can email him on


Johnston Withers is a Gold Alliance member of The Law  Society of South Australia.   As a firm we pride ourselves on our progressive, personal and professional approach to all areas of law.

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