A consent order is a legal document which provides information about an agreement mutually reached by the people involved in a legal case. Also known as a consent decree, this type of order allows people to settle a case without having to wait for a court judgment. It is legally binding, just like a judgment issued at the end of a trial. It is also possible to see an interlocutory consent order, an order which settles a point related to a case while the case is ongoing without determining the final outcome of the case.
In order to be legally recognized, a consent order must be recognized by a court. The parties to the order cannot have been coerced, threatened, or forced into signing. They may need to sign statements indicating that the contents of the order reflect a mutual agreement and that they were not forced into the agreement. Once the order has been endorsed by the court, it goes into effect and becomes enforceable.
This voluntary agreement can be a useful tool for resolving cases outside of court or bringing a case to a quick conclusion. As with any type of legal document, the parties involved should review it carefully to make sure that it does not contain anything unexpected. Any problems with the consent order should be identified and addressed before it is signed and submitted to the court, as amends or appeals are difficult once the document takes effect.
One situation in which a consent order might be used is in a divorce. The partners can work out child custody, alimony, division of assets, and other details with their attorneys, who will prepare an order and submit it to a judge. The judge confirms that the order is valid and endorses it, and the order takes effect. This spares the couple the time and expense of working out an agreement in court.
Time saving is a reason some companies and government agencies will attempt to resolve a legal issue with a consent order, if possible. For example, if a company wants to get another company to stop infringing on its intellectual property, it could file suit but also suggest that it would be amenable to a consent order in which it would drop the suit in an exchange for a cessation of the infringing activity. Likewise, government agencies sometimes use these orders to achieve rapid regulatory compliance.