Children Act Private Law Proceedings: A Handbook was written by Judge John
and published in 2012. The Handbook is designed to assist both experienced
practitioners and litigants in person, the former with a view to offering a
quick reference tool and the latter to inform and equip in the crafting of
their cases. As the title suggests, the book focuses on private family matters
encompassed in the Children Act 1989; those issues which arise between partners
and spouses and any children who make up part of these family units.
Family Law has, in the last 5
years, become a fast-moving, ever shifting landscape, with reforms and policy
changes so numerous that it is sometimes dizzying to keep track. Whilst the
Preface in this book is now a little dated as a result (a considerable amount
has changed over the course of 3 years since this book was published), the
Handbook remains a hugely helpful resource, well-balanced in tone and written
in simple, accessible language.
The book has been beautifully
organised into background materials, giving the reader a flavour of how Private
Law works today; the legal principles that may be applied; those issues which
fall under Private Law’s domain; Orders which are currently in use, and the
mechanics of the court process.
As you might expect from a good
resource, the Handbook also offers tables featuring cases, statutes and other
useful materials, all easy to find and nicely laid out. Though a little heavy,
for a book that holds so much information it is compact and designed for
reference on the go. The Handbook is also meticulous in its explanation of
terms often used but not always applied properly, misconceptions which can lead
to wrong thinking generally and offers plenty of research to bolster current
thinking on family law matters.
Unlike so many legal materials, this
is not a dry read. The writing style is pleasant and informative, demonstrating
great effort to bring the information to life and lend it a value that extends
beyond the theoretical. The writing has, also rather uncharacteristically for
legal content, a warmth to it, which whilst not being emotive, is engaging and
unique. It is a very enjoyable read, as a result.
There is an excellent level of detail in
the Handbook, and whilst it runs to nearly 1,000 pages, every page is
exceptionally well laid out, organised and manages too, to avoid being
The Handbook begins by offering an
overview of Private Family Law, from the history of marriage and its evolution
to the court’s role and its processes. There are occasional segments in
need of updating (for example the end of the first chapter stops short when
discussing The Family Justice Review), but this could easily be rectified by
publishing a further edition filling in the gaps. This though, does not affect
the core principles mentioned as they are still applied nor the case-law
mentioned, which is still in use today.
From helpful quotations found in
famous cases, which Judge Mitchell uses to illustrate legal principles quickly
and deftly, to extracts from socio-legal research allowing the reader to
understand more fully why a principle has evolved, the Handbook takes you
neatly through every aspect of Private Family Law.
Whilst the Foreword in the Handbook,
written by Sir Nicholas Wall who was at the time the President of the Family
Division, suggests that the book is for practitioners as well as members of the
public, and it is certainly a useful resource for both, this book would make an
excellent reference tool for anyone needing or wishing to learn more about
Private Family Law. The book is currently £54, and whilst many guides and
handbooks on offer sell for less, Children Act Private Law Proceedings is a
valuable investment and one which offers a great deal more useful information
than most. What it will not help with are the practical aspects of court
filing, but information on which forms are needed for various Orders and
hearings, are readily accessible today through the internet and other voluntary
Handbook makes an excellent companion to other materials on Private Family Law
and its robust content, considered perspective and simple language are a
welcome addition to the new generation of materials demystifying family law and
making it truly accessible.