Understanding the Law
February 27, 2009
Words used in the Court

To satisfy your quest for an understanding of frequently used legal terms and words, I bring you the following:

Decree nisi: If the Court is satisfied on evidence that the marriage is broken down irretrievably, then a decree of divorce is granted. The decree of divorce in the first instance is a decree nisi.{{more}} It is normally made absolute before six months from its grant. However, a shorter period could be given by the Chief Justice or the judge, who can in special cases fix a shorter period. During that time, the party who is adversely affected could show cause (give reasons) why it should be set aside. Very rarely is decree nisi set aside. The petitioner, however, must make sure that arrangements (under Section 64 of the Matrimonial Causes Act) for maintenance of child or children are in place. Upon the application by the Petitioner to the Registrar, the decree Absolute is granted.

Decree Absolute

This is granted by the court on application in the prescribed manner at the end of the period given in the decree nisi if no reason is given for it to be set aside. This is an important document and must be produced in certain matters to prove that a decree of divorce was granted. For example if a divorcee wants to marry, it must be produced to the registering officer.

Amicus curiae

These are the Latin words for “Friend of the Court.” In our court a lawyer who is not in the matter that is being heard in court can assist the Court by providing an explanation of an issue before the Court if he is present in Court.

Next Friend

This is the person who appears in a lawsuit on behalf of a minor or a patient. The next friend could be appointed by the court with or without an application. A person can act as a next friend if that person can fairly and competently conduct proceedings on behalf of the minor or patient and where he or she has no adverse interest.


This is a legal proceeding by which the lender is able to sell a mortgaged property for unpaid debt. Where the power of sale is stated in the mortgaged document it gives the mortgagee (bank or financial institution) the power to sell the mortgaged property if the mortgagor can no longer meet his monthly payment.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: [email protected]