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The Civil Code of Costa Rica

by rpetersen

In a Civil Law country such as Costa Rica the Civil Code (Codigo Civil)  consists of the core of laws that govern the legal system such as the law of contracts, property law, personal injury, and inheritance.

Understanding the Costa Rica Civil Code

The Costa Rica Civil Code, known locally as “Código Civil,” is a foundational legal document that regulates the relationships between individuals and entities within Costa Rican society. Enacted in 1888, it draws heavily from the civil law tradition, particularly the Napoleonic Code, which emphasizes clarity, coherence, and codification of laws.

Origins and Development

The roots of the Costa Rica Civil Code can be traced back to the 19th century, a period marked by significant political and social changes in Latin America. Influenced by Enlightenment ideals and the legal systems of Europe, Costa Rica, like many other countries in the region, sought to establish a modern legal framework that would promote stability and progress.

Under the leadership of then-President Bernardo Soto Alfaro, a commission was formed to draft a civil code that would unify and modernize the country’s legal system. Drawing upon the expertise of legal scholars and practitioners, the commission worked diligently to create a comprehensive code that reflected the values and aspirations of Costa Rican society.

Key Provisions

The Costa Rica Civil Code covers a wide range of civil matters, including property rights, contracts, family law, and torts. Here are some of its key provisions:

  1. Property Rights: The Civil Code establishes the legal framework for the acquisition, transfer, and protection of property rights. It defines the different types of property, such as real property (land and buildings) and personal property (movable assets), and outlines the rules governing ownership, possession, and use.

  2. Contracts: One of the fundamental principles of the Civil Code is freedom of contract, which allows individuals to enter into agreements according to their own volition. It sets out the requirements for a valid contract, including offer, acceptance, and consideration, and provides remedies for breach of contract.

  3. Family Law: The Civil Code regulates various aspects of family life, including marriage, divorce, parental rights, and inheritance. It establishes the legal framework for marriage, defines the rights and obligations of spouses, and governs the division of property upon divorce or death.

  4. Torts: In cases of civil wrongs or harms (torts), the Civil Code provides remedies for victims and establishes liability for perpetrators. It covers a wide range of tortious conduct, including negligence, defamation, and wrongful acts, and sets out the principles of compensation and damages.

Some sections of the Legal Code are:

Book 1  The Law of Persons

Book 2   The Law of Things (Property)

Book 3  The Law of Obligations

Book 4  Law of Contracts.

You can view the full content of the Costa Rica Civil Code here at the official website of the Costa Rica System of Judicial Information SCIJ

Significance and Impact

The Costa Rica Civil Code plays a crucial role in shaping the legal landscape of the country and ensuring the rule of law. By providing clear and coherent rules for civil interactions, it promotes certainty, predictability, and fairness in legal proceedings. Moreover, it serves as a symbol of Costa Rica’s commitment to democracy, justice, and the rule of law

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