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Civil Competence

  1. Mary Connell

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0179

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Connell, M. 2010. Civil Competence. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–3.

Author Information

  1. Fort Worth, Texas

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Competence, in civil legal matters, refers to the capacity to make independent decisions and conduct legal and financial transactions on one's own behalf. Adults are generally presumed to be competent to handle their own affairs, but when there is compelling evidence to the contrary, an individual may be found, by law, to be incompetent. Either the state or a private party, usually a family member, may raise the issue. Legal determinations of competence are important to fair execution of justice. A just outcome in any matter requires that parties are fully able to understand and participate in the decision making that is required for the matter; if they are not, that accommodation is arranged so that they can participate by representation from someone who has their interests in mind. If the court declares a person to be incompetent, a guardian may be appointed and legally empowered to make decisions on behalf of the person. This may be a family member of other close relation, or it may be the court itself, in which case the person becomes a “ward of the court.” This reflects the notion of parent patriae, or the state's interest in assuring care for those who cannot care for themselves.


  • competence;
  • civil competence;
  • forensics;
  • forensic assessment