Family Law

With ‘excellent availability of counsel with experience and expertise in family law‘, Walnut House is a go-to for solicitors in Exeter – Legal 500 2021
The members of our Family Team offer a comprehensive range of services across all aspects of family law. Our barristers are instructed to appear in all the Family Court Centres in the South West as well as in the High Court and Court of Appeal; and offer a consistent and high quality level of representation and service.

Public Law Children Cases

Our family law barristers regularly appear in many of the more complex and challenging public law cases, including cases where serious allegations of physical or sexual abuse are raised. Barristers are involved in cases involving issues of the causation, as amongst multiple possible perpetrators, and of serious harm to babies and young children, including the lengthy and forensically challenging preliminary hearings that can be so vital to a satisfactory outcome.

We accept instructions from all parties involved in public law proceedings, including the local authority, parents, children acting through their Guardian, as well as relatives seeking to play a role in the children’s future.

Confidence in the court room is matched by an ability to adapt our approach to relate sympathetically to lay clients when advising out of court. The Family Team has acquired substantial experience in how best to assist those with learning difficulties, mental health problems, personality disorders, addictions or other personal difficulties.

Private Law Children Cases

We regularly represent parents and other parties involved in private law Children Act disputes.

Our barristers provide a breadth of experience and expertise covering all cases, from straightforward contact disputes to the more complicated cases, including parental alienation syndrome, domestic violence and allegations of sexual or other abuse requiring fact-finding hearings. Our family barristers have frequently been instructed in cases involving the removal of children from the jurisdiction, whether through applications for permission of the Court or by child abduction.

The Team members are proficient in dealing with such cases and in researching the issues relating to different foreign jurisdictions. We recognise the importance of written advocacy and routinely prepare Case Summaries and Skeleton Arguments to identify the key issues and set the agenda.

Ancillary Relief Cases

Our family law barristers provide a full service on all financial disputes. We act in high value cases involving substantial personal wealth, and assets such as businesses and farms, as well as those with more limited assets.

We frequently provide opinions as to the issues and tactics to be adopted early on in the proceedings so as to obtain the best result for the lay client.

The Family Team provide experienced and effective representation at all interlocutory hearings, and recognise the benefits to the lay client of thorough preparation and effective representation at the FDR hearings. We are frequently instructed on interlocutory hearings, such as those seeking orders to preserve assets, obtain interim orders, set aside dispositions, obtain disclosure and deal with the preparation of expert evidence.

Our family law barristers are experienced in dealing with claims for financial provision under the Children Act 1989, and have acquired a breadth of knowledge in the more problematic areas of financial provision, including cases of reluctant or incomplete disclosure, the detailed analysis of business accounts, the effect of insolvency (actual or threatened), inherited wealth and the involvement of interveners in the proceedings.

We recognise that the importance of the provision of a clear and well-presented Case Summary setting out the relevant facts and figures of the case is always an essential part of the preparation for a final hearing.

Inheritance Act Claims

The service provided by our family law barristers extends to advising and representing all parties involved in claims against estates under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Counsel have been instructed both for the Claimants and to represent the personal representatives as Defendants, and have developed a valuable expertise in this area of Family Law.


Trust of Land Act and Cohabitee Disputes

The Family Team frequently provides advice on the issues of co-ownership of property, including claims involving constructive trusts and proprietary estoppel. We will often prepare early Advices on merits or on proposals for settlement; these regularly assist the lay client to achieve the best outcome at the earliest opportunity. We represent both claimants and defendants at multi-track hearings under the provisions of the Civil Procedure Rules.


Domestic Violence and Injunctions

We are regularly instructed in claims for orders for injunction and Occupation Orders, together with applications for enforcement by committal of injunctions and undertakings, and our family barristers represent both applicants and respondents.

Family Law team members

Hugh Cornford

Year Of Call : 1994; Head of Chambers

Hugh has extensive experience acting for Local Authorities, parents, grandparents, Guardians and proposed special guardians in care proceedings, including representing young and vulnerable parents, clients with learning difficulties and clients with chronic health conditions. View Profile

Mark Treneer

Year Of Call : 1987

The main focus is in ancillary relief (financial remedies) for husbands, wives and children, especially where there are trust and/or business assets and farms. Mark cuts through volume of paper to the core and critical issues and is focussed and blunt with his clients and the Court alike.

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Theresa McCormack

Year Of Call : 2002

Theresa is instructed in multi-day final hearings at which the Court determines whether children should be placed in care of the Local Authority, remain in the care of the Local Authority, be returned to their parents, placed with other family members or have placement orders made in respect of them. View Profile

Helen Bray

Year Of Call : 2004

Helen is a very experienced member of our Family Team in Chambers.
(Full Profile to follow) View Profile

Emma Smith

Year Of Call : 2005

Emma is a practitioner who accepts instructions in both civil and family law. Personable and approachable to clients, Emma has a practical and down-to-earth style both in conference and in court. View Profile

Laura Searle

Year Of Call : 2011; Head of Family / Deputy HoC

Laura is a family barrister with a busy and varied practice acting and advising in public and private law proceedings, applications for injunctive relief and financial remedy proceedings. She is a personable and approachable advocate who prides herself on going the extra mile for her clients. She has studied and worked internationally in France, Brussels, Luxembourg and New Zealand and is a Denning and Eastham Scholar of Lincoln’s Inn View Profile

Emmi Wilson

Year Of Call : 2013

Emmi is a specialist family barrister with established practices in all aspects of public and private law and injunctive proceedings. Emmi joined Walnut House in September 2014 having successfully completed a twelve-month pupillage in chambers, and since then has continued to enjoy a busy family practice. Emmi prides herself on being a personable and persuasive advocate who is both thorough and robust in her approach View Profile

Evie Dean

Year Of Call : 2019

Evie accepts instructions in both criminal and family law. She regularly appears in the Crown and Magistrates’ Courts where she prosecutes and defends in all stages of proceedings. She also acts for parents in both private and care proceedings from application stage through to contested interim and final hearings.

Since joining Walnut House after successfully completing a twelve-month pupillage in chambers, Evie has continued to enjoy a busy and varied practice. She has been complimented on her pragmatic and personable manner with her clients. View Profile

Sam Wysocki

Year Of Call : 2020

Sam has developed a diverse practice across Chambers’ family, criminal and civil teams, representing clients throughout the South West. He prides himself on his attention to detail, being approachable and offering pragmatic advice.
Sam completed his pupillage under the supervision of Hugh Cornford and accepted tenancy from Walnut House in October 2021. Furthermore, Sam successfully obtained his public access qualification in October 2022. View Profile

Zoe Kuyken

Year Of Call : 2021

Zoe joined chambers after successfully completing a 12 month pupillage in 2022.

Zoe accepts instructions in criminal and family law. View Profile

Azzam Bhatti

Year Of Call : 2017

Azzam has a mixed Civil, Criminal and Family practice at Walnut House.

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