DECREE (from the past participle, decretus, of Lat. decernere), in earlier form Decreet, an authoritative decision having the force of law; the judgment of a court of justice. In Roman law, a decree (decretum) was the decision of the emperor, as the supreme judicial officer, settling a case which had been referred to him. In ecclesiastical law the term was given to a decision of an ecclesiastical council settling a doubtful point of doctrine or discipline (cf. also Decretals). In English law decree was more particularly the judgment of a court of equity, but since the Judicature Acts the expression "judgment" is employed in reference to the decisions of all the divisions of the supreme court. A "decree nisi" is the conditional order for a dissolution of marriage made by the divorce court, and it is made "absolute" after six months (which period may, however, be shortened) in the absence of sufficient cause shown to the contrary. (See Divorce.) Decreet arbitral is a Scottish phrase for the award of an arbitrator.
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