Definition of private law
private law (uncountable)
- (law) A category of law governing the relationship among persons (citizens or legal persons including corporations), as opposed to relations between the state and persons. Major subdivisions of private law include (depending on whether the jurisdiction belongs to the civil law, common law, or other legal tradition) torts and contracts or the law of obligations as well as property law, family law, commercial law, and the law of succession (probate and estates). It encompasses most areas of law considered civil law (i.e., non-criminal law), such as those governed by a civil code (in a civil-law or continental-traditional legal system).
Private law is that part of a civil law legal system which is part of the jus commune that involves relationships between individuals, such as the law of contracts or torts, as it is called in the common law, and the law of obligations as it is called in civilian legal systems. It is to be distinguished from public law, which deals with relationships between natural and artificial persons (i.e., individuals, business entities, non-profit organizations) and the state including regulatory statutes, penal law and other law that effects the public order.
In general terms, public law involves interrelations between the state and the general population, whereas private law involves interactions between private citizens.
Private law in common law jurisdictions
The concept of private law in common law countries is a little more broad, in that it also encompasses private relationships between governments and private individuals or other entities. That is, relationships between governments and individuals based on the law of contract or torts are governed by private law, and are not considered to be within the scope of public law.
Areas of private law
- Civil law
- Contract law or law of obligations
- Law of torts
- Property law
- Family law family-related issues and domestic relations including, but not limited to marriage, civil unions, divorce, spousal abuse, child custody and visitation, property, alimony, and child support awards, as well as child abuse issues, and adoption.
- Succession, estate, probate, and testamentary laws
- Law of agency
- Labour law
- Commercial law
- Corporations law
- Competition law
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