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What Is a Decree? Definition, Uses and Importance.

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A decree is the rule of law usually issued by a head of state (such as the President of a republic or the monarch) after following specific procedures (usually established in a constitution). It has the same legal effect as a court order. The particular term used to refer to this concept may differ from one country to the next. Executive orders, such as those issued by the President of the United States, are classified as decrees.

Importance of Decree

A decree is issued after a thorough examination of all parties’ interests. An additional purpose for a decree is when a right not recognized by common law must be addressed. If a victorious party in a contract case seeks specific performance, the judge presiding over the case may issue a decision in favor of a special performance as a remedy.

How Decree Works

Depending on the circumstances, a court may issue an adjudication relating to specific issues in a suit or all of the problems in a case.

There are three types of decrees:

  • Preliminary decree.
  • Final decree.
  • Partly preliminary and partly final

Preliminary decree

A preliminary decree is issued when a court’s adjudication determines the parties’ rights with respect to all or all of the issues in disagreement in a lawsuit but does not entirely dispose of the lawsuit.

A preliminary decree is issued in those instances in which the court must first adjudicate on the parties’ rights and then must stay inactive until it is in a position to issue a final decree, which is the case in most civil cases. It is automatic that the final decree will be overturned if an appeal against a preliminary decree has been filed and no subsequent preliminary decree has been filed in favor of the final decision.

For example, a wife may file a spousal support suit against her husband. As part of its decision, the court must also determine whether or not she will be entitled to maintenance during the trial period. This would be equivalent to issuing a preliminary decree.

Final decree

There are two situations in which a decree can be deemed to be final:

  • When there has been no appeal filed against it.
  • When the highest court has resolved it.
  • When it has been disposed of by the court that issued it.

A final decree is one that entirely disposes of the lawsuit and definitively resolves all of the issues in dispute between the parties, with nothing additional needing to be settled in the subsequent period. It is customary for a lawsuit to conclude with a single final judgment. When two or more causes of action are combined together, however, there may be more than one final decree issued due to the combination.

For example, in litigation for the title to a specific piece of property, when the court determines who has the title, such a decision becomes the final judgment in the case.

Partly preliminary and partly final

A decree may be somewhat preliminary and partially final, and this can be demonstrated using illustration.

For example, in this case, two brothers argue about who would receive the family estate from their deceased father. This home is currently rented out to a family for a monthly rental fee. While the determination of who gets the property is the subject of the final decree, the decision of who receives the profits that accrue from the lease rent that is being paid during the duration of the trial is the subject of a partly preliminary and partly final decree, depending on the circumstances.

Examples are Santosh and Mohan, who worked as fruit wholesalers and got a large quantity of fruit per delivery. There was a time when there was a disagreement over who owned the fruit contingent after it was delivered. Following filing a complaint, the court commenced its investigation into the case. On the other hand, the fruits were perishable and could not have survived the period of the testing. When the plaintiff brought this to the defendant’s attention, the court ordered that the defendant sell the fruits but retain a record of the costs and earnings. Is this a final decision made by the court system?

As a result, this is not a final decree because it does not resolve the issue of who owns the fruits. In the absence of a final decision on that particular issue brought before the courts, this is not a final judgment.

Synonyms of Decree

  • Dictum
  • Mandate
  • Proclamation
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