Law & Society I
M W 9:30AM, Snell 213
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John Exley, ID: 0160294
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Chapter 13: Capacity and Legality
The threshold mental capacity required by the law for a party who enters into a
contract to be bound by that contract.
Section 1 – Contractual Capacity
Age of Majority:
The age at which an individual is considered legally capable of conducting himself or
herself responsibly. A person of this age is entitled to the full rights of citizenship, including the right to
vote in elections. In contract law, one who is no longer an infant and can no longer disaffirm a contract.
In regard to minors, the act of being freed from parental control; occurs when a child’s
parent or legal guardian relinquishes the legal right to exercise control over the child. Normally, a minor
who leaves home to support himself or herself is considered emancipated.
The general rule is that a minor can enter into any contract that an adult can, provided that the
contract is not one prohibited by law for minors. Such a contract is voidable at the option of that
minor. A minor need only manifest an intention not to be bound by it to exercise the option of
avoiding a contract.
A Minor’s Right to Disaffirm
The legal avoidance, or setting aside, of a contractual obligation.
To disaffirm, a minor must express his or her intent, through words or conduct, not to be bound
to the contract. The minor must disaffirm the entire contract, not merely a portion of it.
A contract can ordinarily be disaffirmed at any time during minority or for a reasonable period
after reaching majority. “Reasonable” time varies: two months is acceptable, a year later the
court may hold the contract has been ratified.
A Minor’s Obligation on Disaffirmance
Courts in a majority of states hold that the minor need only return the goods (or other
consideration) subject to the contract, provided the goods are in the minor’s possession or
An increasing number of states, either by statute or by court decision, place an additional duty on
the minor – the duty to restore the adult party to the position that she or he held before the
contract was made.
Exceptions to a Minor’s Right to Disaffirm