private family law

There are some common misconceptions around private family law proceedings. This is the first article in a series which will break down those myths and explain how it works.

The Private Family Court can be a complex environment. There are many processes to understand and issues that can arise.

I have come across some widely held but common misconceptions in my thirty years advising and representing families and private law children’s proceedings. Across this series of articles I will explore the Family Court process, discuss frequent misconceptions and answer the questions I am most commonly asked.

What are Private Law Proceedings?

“What are Private Law Proceedings” is one of the most common questions that I encounter. There are in effect three types of proceedings relating to children:


These are proceedings which deal specifically with financial arrangements regarding a child. This can include Child Maintenance or applications utilising a schedule of the 1989 Children Act for capital lump sums or property to be made available for a child during their minority.

Public Law Proceedings

These are proceedings within which a local authority (social services) are involved, and include Child Protection conferences, Public Law outline meetings, Applications for Supervision or Care Orders.

Private Law Proceedings

Private law proceedings are those where there is generally a dispute between family members. This can include disputes:

  • as to with whom children should live;
  • how often they should see the other parent or family members;
  • disputes in regards to individual issues such as taking the children abroad on holiday or even permanently;
  • what religion they should be brought up in; and
  • which school they should attend and/or medical treatment.

Other Proceedings

There are other forms of children’s proceedings which can blur the line between public and private law, including for example, surrogacy and adoption (including step-parent adoption).

If you have asked the question, ‘what are Private Law Proceedings?’ and would now like more information on the different types of proceedings relating to children, please get in touch and we’d be happy to assist you.

Private Family Law series

The next article in this series addresses the question, ‘How do lawyers know what advice to provide to clients, and how do courts decide the outcomes that they do?’.  For more information on Private Family Court Proceedings and Misconceptions, please find links to the other articles from this series below: