Ian Walker Divorce Lawyer Photo headshot

Family Law Solicitors in Torquay

Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors are now also Family Law Solicitors in Torquay

The last 18 months has been an exceptional period for Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors.

Our achievements since January 2018

In this period, we have:

  • Gained the Law Society Lexcel practice management accreditation
  • Successfully re-tendered for the renewal of our Legal Aid Contracts for Family Law and for Family Mediation
  • Opened new offices in Weston-Super-Mare
  • Added Five Solicitors to our team, namely; the highly experienced David Howell-Richardson, Sandy Powell, Fiona Griffin and Nicole Phare as well as the more recently qualified Imogen Powell. This means we are a team of nine family lawyers (including also; Ian Walker, Kim Stradling, Karen Elliott and Carrie Meikle) – which makes us one of the largest family law teams in the South-West.

Whilst less visible, we have made changes to our website and to our procedures so that we have improved out transparency about legal pricing/charges and our systems to provide and outstanding service to our clients.

As part of these changes we have incorporated innovative technology into our website to assist new clients to better engage with us and to improve what we are able to provide at initial meeting. We have also introduced a pay as you go and wider fixed fee service.

Ian Walker Torquay Offices BuildingFamily Law Solicitors in Torquay

The final step in this period of growth is the opening of our Torquay Family Law Office on the 03 June 2019.

Our Torquay Family Law Office is conveniently located in Lymington Road, at the Torquay Business Centre.

We selected this as a location because it is easily accessible from all parts of Torquay. Torquay Business Centre is a relatively short distance from Torquay County Court. It is also reasonably convenient for Torbay Council social services meetings at Union House.

We also have the benefit of being able to offer free parking (subject to availability and normally pre-booking) and good disabled access.

Nicole Family Law SolicitorOur  Team

Our Torquay solicitors team will be led by Nicole Phare.

Nicole qualified as a specialist family law solicitor in 2005 and specialises in both children law and divorce.

Nicole enjoyed a long career in family law before qualifying as a solicitor and most of her career has been spent working for different practices in Torbay

Nicole will be supported in building our Torquay family law solicitors office by our director Ian Walker and highly experienced solicitors David Howell-Richardson and Sandy Powell.

Both Ian and Sandy have had careers which have included working for South Devon/Torquay practices and between us, we have assisted many Torbay families over the years.

There are now 3 practices in Torquay which include Law Society Children Panel Members and which offer Legal Aid

Torquay Law Office Building FrontWe are conscious that over the years the number of solicitors firms who undertake complex children work in Torquay has significantly reduced.

Before we opened our Torquay solicitors office there were only two firms of solicitors with offices in Torquay which included members of the Law Society Children Panel and which still offer a legally aided service.

By opening an office in Torquay we have taken this number up to 3.

From our Torquay family law solicitors office we will be assisting clients both with children law and divorce.

Divorce Lawyers in Torquay

We are a team of specialist divorce lawyers in Torquay. We will be offering a divorce service from our Torquay family law office.

At Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors we are committed members of the family law solicitors organisation Resolution. Ian Walker is now in his third (three year) term as the elected chair of the Devon region of resolution. Ian is also a member of Resolution’s national Dispute Resolution Committee which promotes innovation and best practice in resolving family Law and divorce cases out of court. He has previously served as both a member of the Law Society Family Law Committee and as a trustee of the Family Mediators Association. One of Ian’s achievements was the introduction of collaborative family law in Devon.

We are committed to assisting our divorce clients to resolve their cases in a principled and fair way which focuses on achieving good outcomes but ensures that the needs of the couple’s children are not lost in (often unnecessary) adult disputes.

If you believe we can assist – please do get in touch.

Join our Family Law Team

In six and half years we have grown from nothing to being a leading family law solicitors practice and mediation service in the south-west.

We have achieved our growth through the innovative use of technology. Are use of technology is both client facing and also within the platform through which we work. We make good use of cloud technology. We use other innovative software and we subscribe to the best available family law practice support service.

We now have SRA authorised offices in Honiton, Exeter, Torquay and Weston-super-Mare as well as consulting rooms we access in Yeovil and Bridgwater.

Our team consists of both employed solicitors and fee share consultant’s.

Whilst on the one hand we intend to consolidate the advances we have made over the last 18 months, on the other hand, we are always open to new opportunities.

We are therefore ever open to hear from outstanding family lawyers who might be based in Devon and Somerset slightly further afield who are interested in joining an innovative, collegiate, noncorporate but highly professional and expert team. Our team has grown around its people and being open to new opportunities and if you share our vision and would like to join our journey then we would like to hear from you. (Equity opportunities are available). Join our Family Law Solicitors in Torquay.


Ian Walker Divorce Lawyer Photo headshotI have the privilege of being the Chair of the Devon Region of Resolution. I am now in the fifth year of my current run as chair. I had a previous term of three years before this followed by a gap of two years as an ordinary committee member.

The Devon region of Resolution is one of Resolution’s largest regions – both in terms of numbers and geography. We have approximately 160 members. We have a committee which strives to represent all of our members.

Our main event each year is now our annual conference. This is in its fifth year. We held our first conference in 2015. Our lineup this year promises to be the best yet.

I have reproduced a copy of the current flyer below as a JPEG. Non-Devon Resolution Members and non-Devon family law solicitors and family law professionals are very welcome to attend.

All delegates leave with a goodie bag. In previous years this was a bottle of Buckfast tonic wine (brewed at our venue). This year the goodie bag will include something more of a golden colour…

The conference is very popular and offers fantastic training as well as a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere…. (Thanks to the friendly nature of our members and the hard work of our committee)

If you are a family law professional haven’t already booked your place – then it’s not too late!


Ian Walker Divorce Lawyer Photo headshotHow can I find a good divorce lawyer?

I have been a Divorce Solicitor/Divorce Lawyer since I qualified as a solicitor in 1992.

In 2013 I founded my own practice. We now have offices in Exeter, Honiton, Taunton and Weston-Super-Mare. We also have consulting rooms in Bridgwater and Yeovil. We will shortly be opening a further office in Torquay.

When I founded Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors it was just myself and a computer. In the space of a little over six years we have grown into a team of nine divorce lawyers/family solicitors. We are now one of the most experienced family law teams in Devon and Somerset.

When marriages break down

The breakdown of a marriage is a sad and emotionally challenging time. Each of the couple will have entered the marriage with the best of intentions. Each will have hoped that the marriage would last. Sadly, too many marriages end in failure.

There are all sorts of reasons for this. Couples grow apart or find that over time they become incompatible. Sometimes one of the couple will become abusive. Sometimes the pressures of life are just too much, and each will pull in different directions.

It is often the case that one of the couple concludes that the marriage has broken down irretrievably before the other. They may have grieved the end of the relationship and made plans to move on before the other is aware. This can mean that when the difficulties come to a head that one of the couple is in a very different place emotionally to the other.

It is not unusual for one or both of the couple to have feelings of anger, betrayal, sadness, grief, depression at the breakdown of a marriage. One or both may well have anxieties about what the future will hold.

Child doing jigsaw - divorce lawyerIf the situation is difficult for the adults, it is often much worse for their children. At least the adults have some control over what happens next. Children are often caught in the middle between parents and have their own uncertainties and anxieties about what the future will hold and why mum and dad no longer get on.

The importance of a good divorce lawyer

Divorce has legal implications. Marriage is a legally binding contract. Ending the marriage involves obtaining a court order – the Decree Absolute. Achieving a clean break or other financial settlement also involves obtaining a court order. These court orders should be obtained.

Where child arrangements are concerned a court order can also be obtained to determine what the child arrangements should be. Such a court order will give certainty, but it is not the best outcome.

The best outcome for children and their parents is that the child arrangements should be agreed between their parents and that these should be reasonable and flexible and where both parents support the child’s relationship with the other parent and the parents work together and communicate well. This is often easier said than done.

When someone chooses a divorce lawyer – they want to achieve fairer outcomes and they do not want to make a difficult situation worse.

A good divorce lawyer should be able to assist their clients to make good choices and to help support them through a difficult time in their lives in a way which is as painless as possible – both emotionally and financially.

What do I need to look out for when finding a good divorce lawyer?

I would say that there are several things that you need to think about when looking for a good divorce lawyer.

Negotiation skills

Going to court over child arrangements or about financial arrangements can be very expensive and never helped anyone get on better with each other.

Most financial settlements are achieved through negotiation. The best arrangements for children are also achieved through negotiation. Therefore, you should look for a solicitor who is able to demonstrate their negotiation skills. Ways in which this can objectively be demonstrated are by the solicitor being qualified as a mediator or collaborative family lawyer or if they work within a team where good negotiation is clearly embedded in the firm’s DNA.

Negotiation choices

It is not good enough in this day and age simply to say that our default position is to make an application to the court and to negotiate – essentially at the door of the court.

In financial cases, negotiation cannot really start until financial disclosure has taken place – but there are choices about how the negotiation might be conducted. The skill of the lawyer is to assist their clients in finding the best process for them.


We are supportive of mediation. This involves referring the client to third party mediator (or one of our mediators acting neutrally for the couple) and providing legal advice in support of the mediation process. With mediation the couple will negotiate themselves – but are supported in doing so.

This is a good option but is not the right thing for everyone. Sometimes one of the couple will find the other overpowering and sometimes one or both of the couple will have difficulty saying yes to what is a reasonable final outcome (in part because they are in the habit of saying no to each other). Mediation works best where there is a confidence in each of the couple and they understand what they need and what the other needs and are prepared to make compromises.

Our team includes experienced mediators in both myself and my colleague David Howell Richardson. We encourage the use of mediation by the rest of our team.

Divorce lawyers meetingCollaborative family law

A better process is in our view collaborative family law. This is an out-of-court process – because the couple make a commitment to negotiate solutions without going to court. The collaborative law process proceeds through a series of confidential meetings. The core participants are the couple and their collaboratively trained lawyers. Additional professionals such as accountants or financial planners or child consultants can be brought into the meetings and work with the couple parallel to the meetings in order to assist the problem-solving approach. We think that this is the best process. Both of the couple are supported by their solicitor and disagreements between professionals can be talked through so that the couple are better able to make pragmatic decisions.

Within our team, both myself and my colleague Fiona Griffin are collaborative family lawyers. I was one of the first to train as a collaborative lawyer in Devon and Somerset back in 2005.

Young girl surfing in DevonFinding the best outcome

Progressive practice means recognising that negotiations sometimes don’t get all the way to a final agreement. However, combining mediation or collaborative family law with arbitration is away to bridge any final gaps. Arbitration is another form of dispute resolution where a couple choose to instruct a private judge called an arbitrator to determine any outstanding issues in a way that is legally binding. This process fits well with mediation and collaborative family law.

Both mediation and collaborative family law are talking solutions. This is particularly important when there are children. The best outcome for children require parents to continue to talk to each other. Negotiating and agreeing solutions together should improve outcomes for a couple’s children.

Talking processes can be difficult at first – because of underlying emotions and a lack of trust, but the rewards of success should normally mean that these difficulties should be embraced and overcome (which is why in our view collaborative law is better – because the couple are better supported)


Experience is important – but is not the be all and end all. Practitioners can get into bad habits or become set in their ways. They may have been reluctant to embrace mediation or collaborative family law because they think that court-based solutions are the only solutions.

A younger solicitor with less year’s post qualification experience may be more committed to progressive practice than an older solicitor.

Nothing should be taken for granted. All I can say is that within my team I demand a commitment to progressive practice from everyone.

The divorce puzzle Panel membership

Family law solicitors are accredited by the Law Society and by resolution. Both have robust accreditation schemes. Having a panel membership is a way of demonstrating expertise and competence. These do not necessarily demonstrate a commitment to progressive practice – but they are a factor which should be taken into consideration.

Transparency about costs

The days are long gone when clients should not expect to have a straightforward conversation with their solicitor about costs.

In 2018 the Solicitors Regulation Authority introduced a requirement that solicitors provide some transparency over pricing. The requirements were limited and only applied to a small number of types of work/processes. It is often hard to find the required information on firm’s websites.

We have always been open about our charge rates. We have always published our base charge rates on our website. Few firms do this. We do not understand why there should be any mystery.

We also recognise that as well as transparency clients want pricing choices. We are very open to working to fixed fees and two other pricing options. Getting fixed fees right is important and this is not something that can really be done properly at an initial meeting. This is because until contact is made with the other party – and there is greater clarity over what needs to be done – and what process will be used to try and achieve an outcome – there are too many unknowns. What we can do is commit that as soon as the situation becomes clearer – we will offer a client a range of pricing choices from proceeding based on hourly rates as well as fixed fee choices.

Meeting with a divorce lawyerClient experience and technology

We recognise that the world around us is evolving and the technology through which we deliver our service is better than it was five years ago and much better than it was 10 or 15 years ago.

We have recently adopted a client engagement tool which also sits on our website. This enables clients to provide us with a lot of information prior to their initial meeting with us. In the past the first half-hour of a meeting with a client would have involved asking lots of questions. This time can now be reduced – so that more time can be spent talking about the issues and options from the outset.

This is just one thing that we do. We do however recognise that some clients want to be able to undertake some tasks themselves – in order to keep costs down. We are very happy to have an open discussion with the client about who does what – when it comes to scoping out the work to be undertaken by us.

Another thing that we do is her that we subscribe to the best family law practice support service – which provides us with an extensive library and database and practice support tools which would have been unimaginable (and completely unaffordable) 15 years or so ago.

Whilst we are happy to share some of what we do in a post – there are other things which we will share with a potential client after they have made contact.

But the bottom line is that best practice for service delivery doesn’t stand still and good family law solicitors/good divorce lawyers will move with the times

Prizes and awards

Some firms invest heavily in public relations and enter the ever-increasing number of awards that are around. These awards are not necessarily judged by practitioners or relevant practitioners and certainly there are many firms that don’t enter or don’t have the time to enter.

As our practice has been growing, we have invested our time in other matters which we believe are more worthwhile – such as achieving the Law Society Lexcel Practice Management Accreditation. This is not an award based on a 1000 word also submission but where our practice is independently audited over two or more days to an extensive standard set by the law society. We would take the view that this is a better measure.

Making the choice

Ultimately you need to find someone that you can work with and have a rapport with.

To assist potential clients, know who we are – we have included on our website short video clips so that you have the chance to meet us on video before you meet us in person. We hope this How can I find a good divorce lawyer article has helped with your search.

If you have more questions about how to choose a good divorce solicitor you can see some common FAQ’s over on this page

If you would like to know more about us and to meet one of our team in person then please use the contact form below.

Contact a Good Divorce Lawyer in our team




With the summer fast approaching, many divorced and separated parents will want to take their children on a well-deserved summer break.

However, whether you can legally take your children abroad without the consent of the other parent, or anyone else with parental responsibility, will depend on your individual circumstances.

Should I seek the consent of the other parent?

If there is a Child Arrangements Order (CAO) in place and you are the parent with whom the child is to live, then you can legally take your child out of the UK for up to one month without the consent of the other parent. You can do this as many times as you wish, as long as each individual trip does not last longer than one month.

However, we would always advise that, where possible, you seek the consent of every person with parental responsibility in any event to keep things amicable and so that the other parent, or persons with parental responsibility, are made aware of your plans.

A parent who is not named in the CAO as the person with whom the child should live must seek the consent of the other, before the child is taken on holiday.

What is parental responsibility?

(PR) is defined in the Children Act 1989 as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”. The gestational mother (the mother who carries the baby to term) will automatically have PR.

The biological father will obtain this if he was married to the mother at the time of the birth, is named on the birth certificate, has entered into a “parental responsibility agreement”, has applied to the court for a “Parental Responsibility Order”, has been appointed as a guardian, has obtained a CAO or has married the mother after the child is born.Young girl surfing in Devon

Can the other parent stop me from taking our child on holiday?

Even if there is an existing CAO in place, if the other parent objects then they can make an application to the court for a “Prohibited Steps Order” for the court to decide whether the holiday should go ahead.

When considering such an application the court’s paramount consideration will be the child’s welfare. Generally, courts do consider that a holiday is in the best interests of the child and they will not look favourably upon a parent who withholds their consent to “score points” against the other.

What if there is no CAO in place?

If a Child Arrangements Order has not been made then in theory, either party can take the child abroad without the consent of the other. However, we would warn against doing so as you may be faced with an application for a “Prohibited Steps Order” or even charges of child abduction, should you proceed to take them out of the country without consent or a court order.

Under the Child Abduction Act 1984, it is an offence for a parent of a child or any person with parental responsibility, to take or send their child out of the UK without the consent of all the persons with parental responsibility or permission from the court. This does not apply where there is a CAO in place (see above).

Top tips

  • Always get consent in writing from every person who holds parental responsibility for the child, in good time.
  • If you have written consent, take a copy of this with you to the airport as some airlines check that the child being taken abroad is not being trafficked.
  • If you are concerned that someone plans to or has already taken your child abroad without your consent, then seek legal assistance as soon as possible. Your solicitor will then give your further guidance on your options.
  • If the other parent (or those holding PR) refuse their consent, then consider making a “Specific Issue Order” for the court to decide the issue. Again, your legal advisor will be able to provide you with further advice.

Should you require any further information or assistance with the above then please do not hesitate to contact a member of our team, who will be pleased to assist.

Imogen Powell is a Solicitor with Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors which is a leading Family Law Solicitors Practice in the South West, with offices in Exeter, Taunton, Honiton and Weston-Super-Mare and consulting rooms in Yeovil and Bridgwater. Here Imogen discusses whether parents are able to take their children on holiday following divorce or separation.


Imogen Powell is a Solicitor with Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors which is a leading Family Law Solicitors Practice in the South West, with offices in Exeter, Taunton, Honiton and Weston-Super-Mare and consulting rooms in Yeovil and Bridgwater. Here Imogen discusses disagreements over who will keep the family pet after a divorce.

Pets on divorce

There is a lot to think about when couples get divorced. Who will start off the paperwork? What will happen to your home? Where will the children live? How will the matrimonial finances be divided? Often, in addition to these “larger” questions, couples will also need to consider what happens to their family pet(s) i.e. who gets to keep the cat?

What factors will the courts consider?

Under the law of England and Wales, pets are seen as “property”, much like other household items or amenities such as your car or your sofa. Unlike with children, there is no such thing as “custody” or “residence” of a pet, and so when deciding on who will get to keep Mr Fluffy, the court will often look at the following factors:

  • Who paid for the animal?
  • Whose name is the animal registered in?
  • Who cares for the animal?
  • How much does it cost to maintain the animal and can that spouse afford this after the matrimonial finances have been divided?
  • How much is the animal worth? Does it produce any income?

What can I do to avoid a dispute?

If agreement cannot be reached between them, couples can end up spending thousands of pounds in legal fees, fighting over their beloved pets.

One only has to look at more “high profile” cases, such as that of Ant McPartlin and his wife Lisa Armstrong, who are allegedly battling over who keeps Hurley, their chocolate Labrador, to see how easily costs can mount.

Therefore, if you are in any doubt about the future care of your pets or wish to avoid expensive arguments in the future, it may be worth considering getting a pre-nuptial agreement drawn up if you intend to marry, or a post-nuptial agreement if you are already married.

What if I am not married but am co-habiting with my partner?

If you are not married and are in a relationship, then the laws surrounding divorce and financial settlement will not apply. There is no such thing as a “common law marriage” and so couples fighting over pets will usually have to resort to making an application in the civil courts.

How can I avoid a dispute in the future?

As with married couples, if you wish to avoid future disputes then you should consider having a cohabitation agreement drafted up, which will deal with who owns what at the time the agreement is drafted, what financial arrangements you wish to make whilst you are living together and what will happen to your finances and assets on the event the relationship breaks down.

Where the agreement is properly drafted, the terms are reasonable and each party has received independent legal advice, a court is more likely to uphold the terms of the agreement in the event of a dispute.

If you require any assistance or further information in relation to a matrimonial dispute, or the drafting of pre-nuptial, post-nuptial or cohabitation agreement then please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of our team, who will be happy to help you.



Imogen Powell is a Solicitor with Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation SolicitorsThe Amazon divorce and the impact of Pre-nuptial Agreements

Imogen Powell is a Solicitor with Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors which is a leading Family Law Solicitors Practice in the South West, with offices in Exeter, Taunton, Honiton and Weston-Super-Mare and consulting rooms in Yeovil and Bridgwater. Here Imogen discusses the importance of pre-nuptial agreements in appropriate cases.

The Amazon divorce

The world’s richest couple, Jeff and McKenzie Bezos, have recently made public the details of their divorce and financial settlement.

The details of their split and consequent financial settlement have been the subject of speculation for the media, public and lawyers for months since it was announced that the couple would be divorcing earlier this year, particularly as the parties did not enter into a pre-nuptial agreement.

For those not in the know, Jeff Bezos is the founder and chief executive officer of Amazon, the online retail giant established in 1994, a year after the parties were married. Until the divorce and subsequent financial settlement, Jeff and McKenzie were the richest couple in the world, with Jeff’s estimated net worth totalling approximately $137 billion.

The divorce settlement

The parties have now revealed on Twitter that they have reached agreement in relation to their finances. As well as 75% of her stock in Amazon and the voting rights in her shares, McKenzie has relinquished all of her interest in the Washington Post and Blue Origin to Jeff.

Although the divorce was dealt with in America, in England and Wales the starting point for long marriages would usually be a 50:50 split.

The court will however look at a wide range of factors when determining the financial division under section 25 if the Matrimonial Causes Act 1925, such as the financial resources of the parties, their financial needs and obligations, the standard of living enjoyed before the breakdown of the marriage, the age of the parties and the duration of the marriage, any physical or mental disabilities of either party, contributions made towards the family, the conduct of each of the parties and any benefits each party will lose the chance of acquiring. Thus, after taking all of these factors into account, the resulting division of the parties’ finances may not necessarily result in a 50:50 split. In the case of Jeff and McKenzie Bezos, the overall split was far from 50:50, although specific details of their settlement or their negotiations have not been published. However, McKenzie will still retain a 4% state in Amazon, worth at least $35 billion.

Why a prenuptial agreement?

For those non-celebrities without billions in the bank, a pre-nuptial agreement may still be worth considering, particularly if they are concerned about how their finances will be dealt with on separation, they have children from before their marriage whose interests they wish to protect, or if they wish to preserve certain assets or to avoid potential dispute in the future.

Pre-nuptial agreements stipulate how the parties hold their assets and how these will be divided on the event of a separation. Where the document has been drafted correctly, the parties have taken independent legal advice, there was full financial disclosure, there was no fraud, misrepresentation or undue pressure and the terms of the agreement are ‘fair’, then a court will usually seek to uphold the agreement, although it is impossible to complete oust the jurisdiction of the court and make a completely legally binding document that the court must follow. However, they can and do often help to alleviate animosity and protracted court room battles in the event of divorce. The parties know where they stand right from the beginning of the relationship and certain assets can be preserved and protected from claims by the other party in the event of a relationship breakdown.

Circumstances can change however and so it is important to review the agreement regularly and/or on the emergence of certain events such as the birth of a child.

If you require any advice or assistance in relation to pre-nuptial agreements, financial settlement or divorce then do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our experience team who will be pleased to assist you


Divorce Lawyer Imogen PowellExeter Family Law Solicitor and Divorce Lawyer Imogen Powell discuses No Fault Divorce

For the past 50 years in England and Wales there has been only one ground for divorce: that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

In order to evidence this irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, one must rely on one of five supporting ‘facts’, namely ‘adultery’, ‘unreasonable behaviour’, ‘two years separation with consent’, ‘two years desertion’ or ‘five years separation’.

Thus, if a married couple wish to obtain a divorce without waiting two years, they must show that one of them is at fault, either by establishing that their spouse has committed adultery, has deserted them or that their behaviour has been so unreasonable they cannot be expected to remain married to them.

Archaic Divorce Laws in England and Wales

This archaic system of establishing fault has long been condemned by prominent members of the judiciary, lawyers, politicians, family law organisations such as Resolution and relationship charities, who have argued that the use of fault is damaging to couples and often to their children. Critics of the current system have argued for many years that the current system of blame triggers or exacerbates parental conflict and does not protect marriage or deter divorce.

The need to establish blame can often lead to increased hostility between couples, who are already facing potentially one of the most stressful times of their lives and can often result in extensive and acrimonious courtroom battles which may have been otherwise avoided.

Reform of Divorce Laws at last?

Following a campaign spearheaded by Family Lawyers organisation Resolution which showed overwhelming support for no fault divorce and a consultation paper published last autumn which received over 600 responses, Justice Secretary David Gauke has confirmed that the procedure for divorce will now be reformed. Whilst many of the details will need to be ironed out, the proposals for reform will potentially include:

  • the “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” as the sole ground for divorce;
  • the removal of the five “facts” required to evidence the irretrievable breakdown of marriage and the need to live apart or to provide evidence of misconduct;
  • the introduction of a new notification process which can be triggered by one or both parties; and
  • the removal of the ability for one spouse to contest the divorce application except in very limited circumstances e.g. where jurisdiction is contested.

Nuffield Foundation report on Divorce

A new report from the Nuffield Foundation has shown that the Ministry of Justice’s proposal to establish a ‘no fault’ divorce is in line with the system in place in several other jurisdictions around the world, including Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Finland, California, Colorado, Spain and Sweden.

This report highlights that there is an international trend away from requiring any ground at all, along with recognition that a divorce must be granted where one of both parties insists that the marriage is over. Interestingly, the report shows that in Spain, Finland and Sweden there are no grounds or evidence which need to be demonstrated in order to obtain a divorce. In Germany, California and Colorado, the petition itself is taken in practice as evidence of the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

Where now for the law on Divorce?

So where does this leave the law in England and Wales? Whilst no formal timescales have been established as of yet, it does appear that the government are aware of the need for change as quickly as possible and it is hoped that a bill detailing the reform may be put to MPs as early as May 2019, in line with the new parliamentary year. Watch this space…


Imogen Powell; Family Law SolicitorImogen Powell

We are very pleased to announce the arrival of Imogen Powell as the latest addition to our team.

Imogen Powell qualified as a solicitor in 2018 having trained with another south-west regional practice.

Imogen is a Devon local having grown up in Torbay before gaining a first class degree at the University of Exeter. This was followed by gaining a distinction in her legal practice course at the University of Bristol.

We have been impressed by Imogen’s friendly and approachable nature. Imogen has already demonstrated that she is very bright and we are confident that she will become an outstanding family lawyer with the support of our highly experienced team. Imogen is committed to maintaining the high level of client care which are practice demands.


Imogen Says

I am excited to join Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors. I am looking forward to working with such an experienced and supportive team. Everyone is very friendly. I am looking forward to being part of the ongoing long-term growth of the practice.


Ian Walker says

We are delighted to welcome Imogen to our team. Imogen has had a sound training and joins us with good legal knowledge and skills and she has the right personality to succeed. We expect that as her experience increases she will grow into being an outstanding Family Law Solicitor/Divorce Lawyer.

Recruiting outstanding talent to our team is important for the long-term growth of our practice and it will assist us to meet the needs of our clients even better.


Family Law Specialist

Imogen will be working both with our specialist divorce team and with our specialist children team. At this stage in Imogen’s career it is fundamental that she assist clients across the full breadth of our practice.


Contact Imogen

Contact Imogen at imogenpowell@familylawandmediation.co.uk


Join our Team

In 2018 we have;

  • Renewed our Legal Aid Contract
  • Successfully achieved the Law Society LEXCEL Practice Management Standard (previously we have been accredited to the Legal Aid Agency’s SQM standard)
  • Added to our team such that we are 9 specialist family lawyers in March 2019
  • Stretched the areas of practice to include Torbay and further into Somerset and North Somerset.

We successfully use cloud based IT including SOS connect case management and we subscribe to Lexis PSL.

We are a happy and friendly team of experienced family law specialists.

We are open to adding further to our team in 2019.

If you are a Devon and Somerset based family lawyer (or want to be) and want to be part of our journey please email ianwalker@familylawandmediation.co.uk – fee share consultant or salary, equity prospects for the right candidates.


Divorce and Cohabitation Specialist ExeterDivorce and Cohabitation Specialist

We are delighted to announce that specialist family law solicitor Fiona Griffin has joined our team as a consultant.

Fiona qualified as a Solicitor in 2000  Most of Fiona’s career has been spent assisting clients in Somerset and North Somerset, most recently as Partner and Head of Family Law for several years with John Hodge Solicitors in Weston-Super-Mare.

Divorce and Cohabitation Specialist

Fiona specialises in divorce and finance cases including cases with net assets of several millions.

Fiona is a Resolution Accredited Specialist Solicitor with specialist accreditation in Financial Relief and Cohabitation.

Fiona is also a Collaborative Family Law specialist.

Committed to Resolution

Like our other lawyers, Fiona is a committed member of Resolution and she is well known and well respected in our local legal community. Fiona is a member of the Somerset Resolution Committee.

We are Excited to have added Fiona Griffin to our team

Ian Walker says:

We are delighted that Fiona has decided to join our team.

Fiona is a very experienced family solicitor. She has particular expertise in divorce and finance law and cohabitation disputes.

Fiona’s addition to our team will mean that we will have 9 family solicitors and legal executives from January 2019. This makes us one of the largest and most experienced teams of family lawyers in the South West.

Fiona, David Howell-Richardson, Sandy Powell and Kim Stradling have all been partners and heads of the family departments at previous practices. This gives us exceptional strength and depth within our team.

We will also have more capacity to see and act for clients in Taunton and Bridgwater, which is really exciting.

Fiona is a pleasure to work with. She already knows most our lawyers very well and she will be a great addition to the team.

Fiona says

Everyone here is really friendly. I am very impressed by the use of cloud based technology at Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors.

I am really looking forward to 2019. Having seen Ian Walker Family Law and mediation Solicitors grow as an outsider, I am really excited to be joining the team.

Contact Fiona

Contact Fiona at fionagriffin@familylawandmediation.co.uk

Join our Team

In 2018 we have;

  • Renewed our Legal Aid Contract
  • Successfully achieved the Law Society LEXCEL Practice Management Standard (previously we have been accredited to the Legal Aid Agency’s SQM standard)
  • Added to our team such that we will have 9 specialist family lawyers in January 2019
  • Stretched the areas of practice to include Torbay and further into Somerset.

We successfully use cloud based IT including SOS connect case management and we subscribe to Lexis PSL.

We are a happy and friendly team of experienced family law specialists.

We are open to adding further to our team in 2019.

If you are a Devon and Somerset based family lawyer (or want to be) and want to be part of our journey please email ianwalker@familylawandmediation.co.uk – fee share consultant or salary, equity prospects for the right candidates.

No office politics!


Ian Walker - Lexcel standard solicitorsIn December 2018 our organisation and working practices were independently audited and we were awarded the Law Society’s legal practice quality mark known as Lexcel

Lexcel provides a flexible, supportive management framework to promote a quality management approach and client service in how to run a legal practice. The framework helps practices develop consistent operational efficiencies and client services, manage risk effectively, reduce costs and promote profitability. It is the most appropriate Standard for the legal profession as it was written by solicitors for solicitors.

Elements of the Lexcel Standard

Lexcel sets the required standard in seven different areas:

  1. structure and strategy,
  2. financial management,
  3. information management,
  4. people management,
  5. risk management,
  6. client care, file and
  7. case management.

Lexcel scheme rules outline the design, principles and governance processes of the scheme.

Independently assessed

Lexcel is independently assessed and demonstrates our commitment to consistently deliver services that meet client expectations, improve overall satisfaction and assist regulatory compliance. Lexcel Accreditation is re-assessed every year.

We were already accredited through the Legal Aid Agency’s Specialist Quality Mark (SQM). There is some overlap between Lexcel and SQM, but in our view, SQM is more a minimum standard, whereas Lexcel is broader and is a better framework for ongoing practice improvement.

We submitted our application for Lexcel accreditation in October 2018 and were successfully audited at the start of December 2018.

Very positive feedback

Our audit report included the following from our assessor:

  • This was a hugely positive initial assessment visit which provided extensive evidence of compliance with the Lexcel standard even at this early stage
  • Overall, I was extremely impressed by the way that the practice has been able to adapt their policies, procedures and plans to meet the requirements of version 6.1 of the standard
  • This visit did identify a small number of minor non-compliances but these largely concerned the contents of the Office Manual and associated reports [Resolved by the time we broke up for Christmas]
  • Throughout the firm I was impressed by the excellent morale and positive attitude of the members of the firm and how they are looking forward to the continuing growth and development of the practice
  • It was also good to hear how positive people are about the move towards paperless working and how everybody, without exception, is clear about the potential benefits of that change
  • A number of suggestions are made for further improvement, all of which relate to making already good systems better

A milestone for our practice

Gaining the Lexcel standard is important for us because it shows that we have financial, management and client care systems in place which are comparable to much bigger and longer established competitors.

Gaining Lexcel is a big step forward for the practice as it demonstrates that we are now a fully established and quality practice and will assist us to improve the reach of our services.

As an exercise, all of our team were involved in the preparation for audit and most were interviewed. We all have a stake in the successful outcome.

We are proud to display the Lexcel logo on our website as a demonstration of the quality of our practice.