Definition of decree nisi
See decree + Latin nisi, unless
- (law) a decree issued on a first petition for divorce; it becomes absolute at some later date unless cause is shown why it should not
A decree nisi (non-absolute ruling) is a ruling by a court that does not have any force until such time that a particular condition is met. Once the condition is met the ruling becomes decree absolute and is binding. Typically, the condition is that no new evidence or further petitions with a bearing on the case are introduced to the court. "Nisi" is Latin for "unless", the wording of the decree being something like "that the marriage had and solemnized on (date) between AB and CD be dissolved by reason that (grounds) UNLESS sufficient cause be shown be shown to the court why this decree should not be made absolute within 6 months of the making hereof".
This allows time for any party who objects to the divorce to come forward with those objections. It is also at times termed as rule nisi. In most common law jurisdictions, a decree nisi must be obtained in possession proceedings before the court will order foreclosure under a mortgage enforcement.
This form of ruling has become a rarity in recent times, with one exception - in some jurisdictions it is still a standard stage of divorce proceedings. In England and Wales section 1(5) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 provides that "Every decree of divorce shall in the first instance be a decree nisi and shall not be made absolute before the expiration of six months from its grant ... ", and section 9(1) allows any person (including the Queen's Proctor), before the decree is made absolute, to "show cause why the decree should not be made absolute by reason of material facts not having been brought before the court".
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