Child contract - is it effective?

Service

The effectiveness of a contract depends on many different factors, the most important of which is legal capacity. In this respect, children are subject to special restrictions depending mainly on their age. So, can a child's contract be effective? However, this is only possible under strictly defined circumstances.

What is legal capacity?

The conclusion of the contract is a form of performing a legal action that is to have a specific effect in the future. After signing such a contract, the parties to such a contract receive a specific set of rights and obligations, which lasts as long as the contract itself. Effective incurring a commitment, however, requires full legal capacity, i.e. a feature that allows you to acquire rights and incur liabilities without any obstacles in the light of the law.

Pursuant to the applicable law, full legal capacity is acquired upon reaching the age of majority. In practice, such a state occurs most often at the age of 18. However, the Family and Guardianship Code provides for a certain exception in this respect - a woman who has reached the age of 16 and with the consent of the guardianship court will marry (e.g. due to pregnancy), acquires the majority and does not lose her adulthood even if there is a future quick divorce.

Legal capacity of children

Children belong to the category of persons who have no or limited legal capacity. This condition depends on the minor's age. Art. 12 of the Civil Code provides that persons under the age of 13 and completely incapacitated persons have no legal capacity. In turn, art. 15 of the Civil Code indicates that minors who have reached the age of 13 and partially incapacitated persons have limited capacity to perform acts in law. SAC judgment of April 19, 2018 (file reference number II FSK 1171/16)

The assessment of whether a given person has the capacity to act is carried out on the basis of the provisions of the Civil Code, which defines the concept of procedural capacity in art. 11, art. 12 art. 13 and art. 15. Since the procedural capacity of a natural person is a derivative of its legal status, it is only this factor, and not its psychophysical features, that determines the possession of procedural capacity. The mere existence of prerequisites for incapacitation does not affect the procedural capacity of a natural person until a decision on incapacitation is issued. A mentally ill person who is not incapacitated has a procedural capacity. Mental disorders are not a sufficient condition for accepting the lack of procedural capacity of the party (participant). Without incapacitation by a common court, this effect does not take place.

Child contract

The validity of a contract concluded by a minor depends primarily on whether he has even limited legal capacity. It is ineffective for children under the age of 13 to incur any obligations or acquire rights. The type of contract signed, its nature, consent of parents or legal guardians or even the fact that the child obtains a financial benefit as a result of such a contract does not matter. Minors up to 13 years of age remain under the full legal influence of their parents - they take all decisions regarding contracts binding their child. It should be noted that in more important cases of a minor, the consent of the guardianship court, which decides on the validity of a given obligation, turns out to be necessary.

Example 1.

A child aged 8 is to be a buyer of real estate worth PLN 200,000 - his parents want to sign the contract on behalf of the minor, but they can do it only after obtaining the prior consent of the guardianship court. To this end, they must submit an application for such authorization. If the contract is signed without an appropriate court order, it will be invalid and will not have any legal consequences - the child will not become the owner of the property, even if it would be in accordance with the wishes of both parents.

The situation of concluding contracts by children over the age of 13 is completely different. They then have limited legal capacity, which entitles them to sign contracts on their own, although we should add that this will not be possible in every situation.

Pursuant to Art. 17 and 20 of the Civil Code, subject to the exceptions provided for in the Act, for the validity of a legal action by which a person limited in legal capacity incurs an obligation or disposes of his law, the consent of his legal representative is required. A person limited in legal capacity may, however, without the consent of the statutory representative, conclude contracts belonging to contracts commonly concluded in minor everyday matters of daily life.

Relating the above to practice - a child over 13 years of age may sign contracts that are small and do not cause serious legal consequences - e.g. purchase of clothes, food, cinema tickets, replacement of items belonging to different children. The most important thing is that such an agreement does not impose financial burdens on the child that it will not be able to settle by itself (eg signing a loan agreement for the amount of PLN 10,000). In more serious cases, such as the purchase of a bicycle or RTV equipment for the amount of several thousand zlotys, the consent of the child's parents or legal guardians becomes necessary (however, the consent of the guardianship court is not required).

Example 2.

The 14-year-old intends to go to the cinema with his friends and has money set aside for this purpose. In this situation, he does not have to obtain the consent of his parents and can buy tickets himself at the cinema box office or via the Internet.

Example 3.

The 14-year-old intends to buy computer equipment worth PLN 8,000, he has half of this amount for this purpose. Even assuming that he would have the entire sum needed for such purchases, he would not be able to make them without the consent of his parents. The amount of the commitment is too high, and the purchase is not an everyday activity. However, the consent of the guardianship court is not required here at all.

Example 4.

The 17-year-old intends to buy a studio apartment worth PLN 200,000, he has set aside the entire amount he received as a result of accepting the inheritance from his deceased grandfather. Parents consent to signing such an agreement, but for its effectiveness you will need the permission of the guardianship court. Otherwise, the commitment made will not be effective - such valuable contracts entered into by minors must be examined in court each time.

Effectiveness of the contract concluded by the child

If the contract is concluded by the child in accordance with the previously discussed rules, i.e. with the consent of the parents or the guardianship court, the resulting obligation will be fully effective and binding. Of course, attempts to sign the contract without the required consents will be counterproductive. Contracts entered into by children under the age of 13 will be completely void.

Slightly different effects will arise when the contract is concluded without consent, but by a minor who has limited legal capacity. The validity of a contract that was concluded by such a person without the required consent of the legal representative depends on the confirmation of the contract by that representative - in this case, of course, it concerns the parents or legal guardians of the child. A person limited in legal capacity may also confirm the contract himself after gaining full legal capacity. A party that has concluded an agreement with a person limited in legal capacity may not rely on the lack of consent of its legal representative. It may, however, give that representative a reasonable period of time to confirm the contract; becomes free after the expiry of the prescribed period ineffectively. The judgment of the Supreme Court of January 20, 1954 (file reference number I C 51/53)

Confirmation by a statutory representative of a contract concluded by a person with limited legal capacity may be expressed by any behavior that shows the will sufficiently.

We should remember, however, that if a person limited in legal capacity has performed a unilateral legal act on its own, for which the law requires the consent of a statutory representative, the act is invalid.

Summary

In accordance with the applicable law, a child may conclude a contract effectively if he obtains the consent of the parents and, in appropriate situations, also of the guardianship court. A child under the age of 13 may not sign any contract, otherwise it will not be validly and effectively concluded. On the other hand, a minor who has reached 13 years of age may independently incur obligations in minor everyday matters - in the remaining cases, he must also obtain the consent of his legal representatives.