A minor is a person of either sex, who is below eighteen years of age (Art. 215 RFC), and minority starts from the beginning of physical personality. A minor cannot perform juridical acts (i.e.-acts that entail legal consequences) “except in cases provided by law” (216/3- RFC). The words “except in cases provided by law” indicate that there are certain juridical acts that minors are allowed to perform.
Juridical acts that can be performed by minors
The juridical acts that minors can perform are stipulated under Articles 242, 263, 264, 134/1, 140/2, 140/3, 291,292,293 and 295 of the Revised Family Code.
a) Guardianship and tutorship
A minor can be a guardian or tutor of his own children (Art.242 -RFC). This provision applies to cases where a minor happens to be a parent outside wedlock, because marriage (upon dispensation of not more than two years –Art 7/2, RFC) emancipates a person from minority (Art. 311 – RFC). Yet, the issue as to how a person who is a minor himself can perform all the juridical acts of a tutor inevitably arises unless he is emancipated. In principle, there is lessened capacity owing to minority; and as exception to this principle, the person under the age of eighteen is entrusted with tasks as guardian and tutor of his/ her child that require capacity. The solution under such circumstances seem to be the advise the parent-minor to apply for emancipation.
b) Receiving income from work
From the age of fourteen onwards, the minor himself shall receive the income deriving from his work (Art. 263/1 -RFC). By virtue of Article 263/2 (RFC), the minor “may freely dispose of such income in accordance with the law, after making contribution to his own maintenance.” The original Amharic version reads “ለራሱ ቀለብ የሚሆነውን ለAሳዳሪው ከሰጠ በኋላ…” meaning “after having given his expenses of maintenance to his guardian ….” The condition that reads “in accordance with the law” renders this provision subject to other provisions (such as Articles 292 and 293 -RFC) that regulate the act of disposing of income by the minor.
c) Receiving income from donated or bequeathed property
A minor may receive income from property donated or bequeathed if the person who donates, bequeaths or leaves the property orders that the minor and not his guardian receive and use the income. The contract of donation or will can also enable the minor to administer and use such income (Art. 264 -RFC). It must be noted that Art. 264 (RFC) doesn’t allow the minor to administer and use the property that is donated, bequeathed or inherited under the circumstances stated in the provision, but can only administer and use “income from such property”.
d) Acknowledging a child
A minor shall personally make declaration to acknowledge that he is the father of a child (Art. 134/1 -RFC). Where the acknowledgment is made without the guardian’s authorization, the minor can revoke such acknowledgment as long as he is a minor and within one year following his attainment of majority (140/2 -RFC). Such right of revocation can only be exercised by the minor himself and not by his representatives or heirs (Art. 140/3 –RFC).
e) Acts of everyday life
The tutor may expressly (292/1 -RFC) or tacitly (292/2 -RFC) authorize the minor to conclude contracts, “which considering his age and his financial position, are to be regarded as acts of everyday life”. Article 293 (RFC) defines acts of everyday life as acts, which do not require authorization of the court (293/1 –RFC) or acts that entail expense or obligation whose value does not exceed three hundred Birr (293/2 –RFC).
Acts such as loan (Art. 290 -RFC), lease (284 -RFC), and compromise involving an amount more than one thousand Birr (Art. 288 -RFC) cannot be performed by the tutor without the authorization of the court. And the tutor cannot thus authorize the minor to perform such acts.
f) Will, marriage and being adopted:
- A minor is entitled to make a will on his own as of his attainment of sixteen years (Art. 295/2 -RFC).
- A minor over sixteen years who is allowed to marry according to Art 7/2 (RFC), is entitled to give his consent because Art. 6 (RFC) applies regardless of age.
- Opinion of the child may be considered before the court approves the agreement of adoption (Art. 194/3/a -RFC).
g) Other juridical acts:
A minor has the right to bring an action in court as stipulated under Articles 300, 160/1 and 161/1 of the Revised Family Code. Moreover, the tutor shall consult the minor (aged fourteen or above) in all important acts concerning him (Art.291/1 -RFC). The right to be consulted is of course a fundamental right although it can hardly be considered a juridical act.