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In law, a declaration ordinarily refers to a judgment of the court or an award of an arbitration tribunal is a binding adjudication of the rights or other legal relations of the parties which does not provide for or order enforcement. Where the declaration is made by a court, it is usually referred to as a declaratory judgment. Less commonly, where declaratory relief is awarded by an arbitrator, it is normally called a declaratory award.
Declaratory relief is most commonly seen in two particular circumstances:
- applications for declarations of legitimacy, in family and probate legal proceedings; and
- under insurance policies, for a determination of whether a peril is covered by a particular policy.
However, applications for declaratory relief in other areas have become more widespread, particularly in Europe. A key feature in relation to this development has been the Brussels and Lugano Conventions on civil jurisdiction and judgments relating to members of the European Economic Area (EEA). In certain circumstances, jurisdiction is awarded under the conventions to the courts first seised of the matter. This has led to a rise in defendants taking pre-emptive action by seeking "declarations of non-liability" in a race to the courthouse to ensure that they choose the court first seised rather than waiting for the claimant to do so.
Other legal uses
Declaration is used (as a verb or a noun) in other ways in certain legal systems.
- In some legal systems, a declaration is an alternative term for an affidavit.
- In relation to companies, declaration is the first step in relation to distribution and payment of dividends.
- In trust law, a settlor who declares that he holds certain property on trust is said to make a declaration of trust.
- Dying declarations are an exception to the rule against hearsay in many legal systems.
- Declarations against interest are also an exception to the rule against hearsay in many legal systems.
- A formal declaration of default is required to enforce creditors' security rights in some legal systems.
- An interpretative declaration is a formal note made by a state upon ratifying a treaty clarifying the state's interpretation of the treaty.