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Quick Overview of Civil Law

Quick Overview of Civil Law

Quick Overview of Civil Law

Civil law is one of the two major legal systems in the world, alongside common law. It is the predominant legal system in most of Europe, Latin America, and several other countries around the world. In this article, we will provide a quick overview of the civil law system.

Introduction to Civil Law

Civil law is a legal system based on a comprehensive, codified set of laws and rules. It is characterized by the use of written codes and legislation that define legal procedures and govern the relationships between individuals and institutions.

Historically, civil law is rooted in Roman law, which was developed in ancient Rome between the 5th and 8th centuries AD. The Roman legal system had a profound influence on the development of civil law throughout Europe and eventually spread to other parts of the world.

Key Characteristics of Civil Law

Some of the basic characteristics of civil law include:

1. Written Laws and Codes: In civil law, legal rules are primarily contained in written laws and codes that have been enacted by the legislature. These laws are often arranged systematically and deal with different areas of law, including commercial transactions, contracts, and torts.

2. Decision-Making Process: In civil law, the court’s decisions are primarily based on the written law. The courts interpret and apply the laws to the facts of each case before them.

3. Inquisitorial System: Civil law courts are generally based on an inquisitorial system, which means that the judge has a more active role in the investigation and fact-finding process. This differs from common law systems where the judge’s role is limited.

4. Private Law: Civil law has a strong emphasis on private law, which deals with the rights and obligations of individuals and associations. This includes areas such as contracts, property law, family law, and succession law.

5. Legal Certainty: Another important feature of civil law is the emphasis on legal certainty. The written law is seen as the primary source of legal certainty, and courts seek to provide clear and predictable legal outcomes.

Examples of Civil Law

There are numerous examples of civil law in practice around the world, including:

1. French Civil Law: France is the birthplace of modern civil law and is often seen as the model for modern civil law systems. Its legal system is characterized by its comprehensive civil code, which sets out the principles governing all areas of law.

2. German Civil Law: Germany has a civil law system that is similar to France. Its civil code, known as the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB), contains the legal rules that govern private law.

3. Latin America: Many countries in Latin America have adopted civil law systems, including Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina.


In summary, civil law is a legal system that is based on comprehensive written laws and codes enacted by the legislature. It differs from common law, which is based on judicial decisions and legal precedents. Civil law is an important legal system that is used in many countries around the world and is an essential part of the global legal landscape.

Civil law is an area of the legal system that handles private matters between people, such as family, individuals involved in accidents, injury, privacy, and individual treatment. Conversely, business, employment, corporate, and administrative law broaches topics on a grander level, involving companies, agencies, and businesses.

In most cases, marriage, divorce, and other aspects of family law fall under the umbrella of civil law as well. Civil law is considered to be closely-associated with both Tort law and Common Law.

The aspect of torts, or wrongs, suffered by or unto others can be handled within the realm of civil law if the matter is between the privacy of two individual entities. Common law, such as the technicalities and legalities of a Common Law Marriage, are also traditionally handled by attorneys specializing in Civil Law.