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The five most frequently used parts of the Civil Code

Most of us probably don’t routinely read the law; on the other hand, it is good to know your rights and obligations, because ignorance of the law is no excuse. The basic law that runs through our entire lives is the Civil Code. What can we find in it, what are its most useful parts and how can it be useful to us?

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Chapters of the article

Civil law and the Civil Code

The Civil Code is a fundamental norm that regulates a large number of situations we encounter in life. It can be said without exaggeration that it accompanies us from birth to death. In the course of every day, we experience a number of situations that are regulated by the Civil Code, whether it is an ordinary purchase in a shop, taking care of a child and representing him or her, inheriting an inheritance from a grandmother, going on holiday and staying in a hotel, moving house and renting an apartment, or buying a cottage and owning it.

From the point of view of legal theory, the Civil Code is the basic norm of substantive civil law. Alongside it, there is also civil procedural law, which regulates and describes the protection of rights (especially the process of court proceedings) guaranteed by substantive civil law. Its basic source is the Code of Civil Procedure.

There are manydefinitions of civil law, but in general it can be said that it deals with private law relations, especially the property relations of natural and legal persons, relations between them and the State and relations arising from the right to protection of personality.

We have already outlined above some everyday situations regulated by the Civil Code. Let’s now look at which of these are the most common ones you contact us with:

Basic concepts, time limits, limitation and prescription

The first part of the Civil Code defines the basic concepts. You will find, for example, the definition of natural persons, consumers or entrepreneurs, which are used further in the Code or other legislation. Frequent questions from clients then relate to issues of personal guardianship and in particular time limits, limitation of rights and prescription.

Statute of limitations is a legal institute which only results in the weakening of a certain right after the expiry of the so-called limitation period. It does not extinguish the right in question, but if the statute of limitations is argued before the court, the court must take it into account and cannot force the debtor to fulfil his debt.

The statute of limitations can be confused with the so-called prescription, which works in a similar way, with the crucial difference that after a certain period of time, the right in question is extinguished completely and so is your claim. If you were to perform a debt that is subject to this limitation, then there would be unjust enrichment on the part of the creditor. In contrast to limitation, the court will also take the limitation into account automatically, i.e. without a plea of limitation.

In practice, there are situations where it is not entirely clear whether a certain right is already time-barred or not, because both the subjective limitation period (which requires, for example, knowledge of the damage suffered and is three years under the provisions of the Civil Code) and the objective limitation period, which is ten years, apply. In some cases, for example, the limitation period may be interrupted or suspended, so it can be a challenge for a layman to work out exactly what the legal situation is and what I am entitled to at the time. However, a lawyer with experience in civil law can advise you on what you are entitled to and the best course of action for you.

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Marriage and divorce

The area of family law has been relatively strengthened in the new Civil Code; previously it was dealt with by separate laws, but now we find a comprehensive regulation. The law regulates marriage, i.e. in particular the methods of its formation, the obligations and rights of the spouses and maintenance between the spouses. More often, however, the law is only consulted in the case of divorce and child custody.

Divorce is a process that we can find models for starting on the internet, but since it will have a very significant impact on our current financial situation and, as a rule, also on our expenses for many years to come (childcare or alimony payments), it is worth investing in legal assistance in this case. Clients are often unaware of what all needs to be accomplished for a quicker and less costly uncontested divorce. With the help of attorneys unburdened by emotion, an agreement can then be more easily reached.

The essential condition for an uncontested divorce under the Civil Code is that the spouses are in agreement that the marriage is irretrievably broken and want to end it as quickly as possible. For such a case, it is sufficient to draw up an agreement on the division of the community property and the rights of cohabitation after the dissolution of the marriage, which is attached to the petition for uncontested divorce. If there are children in the marriage, the court will also approve the spouses’ agreement on the arrangement of the relations with the minor children before and after the divorce. This application may be filed with the competent court together with the application for uncontested divorce and shall be dealt with by the court first. Once the court has approved the agreement, nothing prevents the application for uncontested divorce from being granted and the marriage from being dissolved.

Also, in a contested divorce, you must first decide how child custody will be handled. The difference in this case is that the court is not only concerned with the resulting agreement, but makes emotionally demanding interviews of both spouses, proving how either spouse cares for the children and what custody and support arrangement will be best for the child.

Tip: Download the divorce e-book to help you prepare for the process.

Once the question of children has been resolved, or if the marriage is childless, the divorce proceedings follow. Here too, in the case of a contested divorce, it is necessary to establish the reasons why the divorce is taking place. So, for example, the infidelity of one of the spouses or other reasons are proved. The third stage is the division of the community property.

Inheritance

Inheritance has undergone quite a significant change in the new Civil Code compared to the previous regulation. As before, however, the most effective tool to settle your estate during your lifetime is the classic will. It is, in effect, an instruction as to how the property is to be dealt with after the death of the testator. It can be drawn up either in your own hand with your signature or with witnesses. However, it is safest to make a will in the form of a public deed. It identifies the heirs and specifies their shares. A will can also set out a condition of inheritance, such as the completion of studies. The notary then keeps it in a special register and no provision is made to ensure that it is not lost. Such a will will not be lost, as the notary keeps it in a special register.

If there is no succession by contract of succession or by will, the succession proceedings continue by succession by operation of law. The Civil Code provides for six classes of succession, which come into play in turn. Under the first class of succession, the spouse and children inherit. If they are not, then the property passes to their descendants. If there are no heirs from the first inheritance class, then heirs from the second inheritance class come in, and so on. Great-grandparents or cousins are now included in the circle of legal heirs.

Some questions concern the obligation to take over the inheritance. The subject of the succession proceedings is the total estate of the deceased, including debts. If you are in danger of losing rather than gaining by inheritance, a refusal of inheritance is in order.

Different types of contracts – purchase, lease, insurance

The different types of contracts are typical examples of where non-lawyers most often encounter civil law in practice. Indeed, we deal with contracts of sale (even if in the form of a convenience store purchase) on a daily basis, and many other contracts frequently (donation, lease, collection, accommodation). Client enquiries vary greatly depending on the type of contract.

We have therefore compiled the most common questions relating to lease agreements into a separate article and devoted an entire e-book to the purchase and sale of real estate.

Compensation for damages

Frequent small disputes of clients concern possible damages. Under what circumstances am I entitled to compensation if, for example, a child or a dog causes it? And how is the amount of the damage quantified if it is, for example, the destruction of an older item?

The general prerequisites for a duty to compensate are:

  • a wrongful act (which may be a breach of good morals, a contractual obligation or the law),
  • the occurrence of damage,
  • causation,
  • fault (intentional or negligent).

Even negligence is sufficient for liability for damages to arise, unless the law expressly refers to intent (direct or indirect).

Tip: We have discussed the general principles of compensation in more detail in our article.

If the damage was caused to a used or older item, the market value of the item at the time of damage must be taken into account and the extent of the damage must also be taken into account. If, on the other hand, the repair has increased the value of the item, the amount corresponding to the increase in value must be deducted from the cost of the repair.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

Education
  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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