COSTA RICA: National Laws

Summary: General overview of Costa Rica's national legal provisions on children's rights, including guidance on how to conduct further research.

National laws on children's rights

Status of the CRC in national law

Article 7 of the Constitution of Costa Rica provides that international treaties duly approved by the Legislative Assembly, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, have a higher authority than domestic laws. Courts can, and have, applied the Convention in place of conflicting national laws.

Constitution: Title IV of the Constitution sets out a number of rights provisions that apply regardless of age, and a small number of provisions that specifically address the rights of children can be found throughout the Constitution:

  • Article 13: contains provisions on the citizenship rights of children.

  • Article 17: provides that the acquisition of nationality can be passed from a parent to minor children as provided for in law.

  • Article 51: entitles “mothers, children, the elderly and the destitute infirm” to State protection.

  • Article 53: provides that parents have the same obligations towards children born out of wedlock that they have towards those born within marriage.

  • Article 78(1): provides that preschool and general basic education are free and compulsory.

  • Article 121(19): includes the creation of establishments for teaching and the advancement of the sciences and arts within the areas that the Legislative Assembly has competence, particularly with regards to elementary education.

Legislation: the Children and Adolescents Code contains much of the law on children's rights, but relevant provisions can be found in a number of Codes and Acts. Relevant legislation includes, but is by no means limited to:

  • The Children and Adolescents Code (Act No. 7739)

  • The Criminal Code

  • The Code of Criminal Procedure

  • The Civil Code

  • The Family Code

  • Act No. 2160, the Education Act

  • Act No. 7576, the Juvenile Criminal Justice Act

  • Act No. 8649 on the application of juvenile criminal penalties

  • Act No. 8590 on strengthening measures to combat sexual exploitation of minors

  • Act No 8261, the Act on Young Persons

  • Act No. 8449 on the creation of the school and children's police

  • Act No. 8922 on the prohibition of dangerous and unhealthy work for adolescent workers

  • Act No. 8654 on the rights of children and adolescents to be disciplined without physical punishment or degrading treatment

  • Act No. 8101, the Responsible Paternity Act

  • Act No. 7654, the Maintenance Payments Act

  • Act No. 7735, the Adolescent Mother Protection Act

  • Decree No. 33028 on the regulations of the national Council on Children and Adolescents

  • Decree No. 32195-G on Refugees

Legal Research

The website of the Legislative Assembly (Asamblea Legislativa) publishes legislation in Spanish ( and the Constitution of Costa Rica is available in English and Spanish through the World Intellectual Property Organisation ( The International Labour Organisation website, NATLEX, provides access to a selection of national legislation, primarily in Spanish ( and the Costa Rica Law website provides access to a selection of legislation, including English translations ( In addition, the GlobaLex project at New York University has published a guide to legal research in Costa Rica ( and the World Legal Information Institute ( and the U.S. Law Library of Congress ( both provide access to a selection of legal and governmental resources.

Case Law

CRC Jurisprudence

The Convention on the Rights of the Child has been cited in domestic courts, including before the Criminal Court of Cassation with regards to the legality of corporal punishment in the home (

Case Law Research

The Poder Judicial website maintains a database of national case law ( and the Sala Constitucional Corte Supreme de Jusiticia website contains information on the decision of the court, including all rules that have found to be unconstitutional ( All resources are in Spanish.

Compliance with the CRC

In its Concluding Observations of 2011, the Committee on the Rights of the Child noted efforts in the State to bring its laws into conformity with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but expressed concern at the slow implementation of existing legislation caused by a lack of regulatory by-laws, mechanisms and policies. The Committee urged the State to adopt mechanisms to ensure the effective implementation of existing laws and norms at the national, regional, municipal and community levels.

In depth analysis

Among the specific areas of Costa Rican law about which the Committee raised concerns in its 2011 Concluding Observations was the minimum ages set with regards to marriage and sexual consent. Specifically, the Committee raised concern at the very low minimum age of sexual consent (13 years) and that children as young as 15 could get married with their parents' consent. The Committee urged the State to reform these areas of the law to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 and to review the age of sexual consent with a view to “ensuring the healthy development of children, preventing force marriage, early pregnancies and sexual abuse.”

With regards to adoption, the Committee noted that the Constitutional Chamber had declared direct adoptions – those by agreement between biological parents and adoptive parents without the intervention of the National Institute for Children (PANI) – unconstitutional, and State efforts to regulate adoptions through new national regulations. However, the Committee expressed concern that direct adoptions were still being performed and that insufficient regulation of private adoption services combined with weak control and monitoring mechanisms could result in cases of child trafficking. The Committee urged the State to enact and effectively implement legislation prohibiting direct adoptions and to harmonise domestic legislation with international legal standards on adoption.

The Committee also raised a number of concerns about the prevalence of trafficking of children for forced labour, sexual exploitation and sex tourism and the absence of criminal law provisions to specifically criminalise trafficking. The limited impact of training for law enforcement officers on identifying trafficking cases and the application of criminal law provisions was also a source of concern. The corresponding recommendations focused on reforming laws on trafficking to ensure that all forms of trafficking of children are criminalised; ensuring that cases of trafficking, including internal trafficking, are investigated, prosecuted and that sentences are commensurate with the severity of the crime; and facilitating access to justice for child victims of trafficking, including in relation to compensation and access to the asylum system.

Current legal reform projects

Please contact CRIN if you are aware of any ongoing legal reform projects.


Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.