This paper presents critical assessment of codal provisions to determine lateral stability of a well foundation. A two-dimensional finite element model of soil–well foundation system is developed for this study. The well foundation is modeled as a linear elastic body, whereas the soil as a nonlinear elasto-plastic material which is defined using multi-yield surface plasticity model. Interface between the well foundation and the adjoining soil is defined using constitutive relationships describing relative sliding and separation at the interface. Assumptions considered in the existing codal provisions to determine lateral stability of a well foundation are evaluated in light of the results obtained from the present study. The present study shows that the mechanism of deformation of laterally loaded soil–well foundation system obtained in this study differs from that considered in the existing codal provisions. It is observed that the existing codal provisions overestimate the lateral load capacity of a well foundation. © 2020, Indian Geotechnical Society.