A consent decree (also referred to as a consent order or stipulated judgment or agreed judgment) is a final, binding judicial decree or judgment memorializing a voluntary agreement between parties to a suit in return for withdrawal of a criminal charge or an end to a civil litigation. In a typical consent decree, the defendant has already ceased or agrees to cease the conduct alleged by the plaintiff to be illegal and consents to a court injunction barring the conduct in the future. A consent judgment can also memorialize payment of damages. Sometimes the defendant expressly does not admit to fault, illegality or damages. Consent decrees are used most commonly in criminal law and family law. They are frequently used by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. They are sometimes used in antitrust law and labor law.
A consent decree can be either interlocutory or final. The former is given on some plea or issue arising in the cause which does not decide the main question; the latter settles the matter in dispute, and a final decree has the same effect as a judgment at law.
Once entered, a consent decree is binding on the consenting parties and cannot be reviewed except on a showing that the consent was obtained by fraud or that the decree was based on mutual error or a failure of consent.
If the party against whom the judgment is rendered violates the terms of the consent decree, the judgment is as binding as any other, and the non-breaching party may seek enforcement through a contempt action. Enforcement actions vary, but can include wage garnishment and/or property lien(s).