Family court president Sir Nicholas Wall to step down

Sir Nicholas Wall, the president of the High Court’s family division, is to retire from the role on 1 December after two years as England and Wales’s most senior family law judge.

The 67-year old, who was appointed QC in 1988 and became a High Court judge in 1993, has made the decision to leave on the grounds of ill health.

Since his appointment to president of the family division in April 2010 Wall has called for the legal rights of unmarried couples and asked judges to take a more active role in family cases so that courts don’t become “battlegrounds” for parents to fight for custody of their children.

In March this year he pushed for the introduction of ‘no-fault’ divorces – where neither party is blamed for a separation – to be made standard so that couples in England and Wales can be granted quick legal separation.

“My position is very simple. I’m a strong believer in marriage. But I see no good arguments against no fault divorce,” he said in a speech earlier this year. “In the 19th century and for much of the 20th, divorce was a matter of social status – it mattered whether you were divorced or not, and if you were, it was important to demonstrate that you were the ‘innocent’ party. All that, I think, has gone.”

Wall was called to the bar in 1969, took silk in 1988 and became a recorder in 1990.  He was a judge of the Employment Appeal Tribunal from 2001 to 2003, a judge of the Administrative Court from 2003 to 2004 and a member of the Lord Chancellor’s advisory board on family law from 1997 to 2001.

The Lord Chancellor has recently written to the Judicial Appointments Commission to request that a panel is convened to identify the successor to Sir Andrew Morritt, who retires as chancellor of the High Court in January.  The Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge has asked for the the next president of the family division to be identified at the same time.