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What Is a Consent Decree?

A consent decree is also known as a consent order, which is issued by a judge in order to communicate a settlement or agreement between litigants in a court case. This can signal a resolution in a court case depending on the type of consent decree issued by the judge. A consent decree is voluntarily agreed upon by both litigants and recognized by the court.

There are 2 kinds of consent decrees depending on when in the court proceedings it was issued. The first is an interlocutory consent decree wherein the decree issued by the judge is to address an issue that does not resolve the case. The second is a final consent decree or consent judgment, which does resolve the court case. The latter kind is often a court recognition of an agreement reached upon by both parties. Before parties can resolve a conflict or dispute, the court must first recognize the agreement reached by both parties. Once the court recognizes an agreement, the judge issues a final consent decree that is legally binding on all the involved litigants.

When litigants wish to avoid a lengthy court proceeding, they often resolve the dispute among themselves. The agreement is then presented to the judge who will recognize the agreement and formalize it. When a consent judgment is issued, it resolves the case. This is usually done not just to avoid a lengthy court proceeding, but also to allow litigants to lessen the costs incurred by retaining a legal counsel and by filing of legal documents.

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