Declaratory Relief Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Declaratory Relief, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Declaratory Relief?

n. The judge’s ruling that results from the declaratory judgment which is requested in a lawsuit over the parties’ contract rights. In theory, early resolution of legal rights will resolve the issues in the same matter.

History and Meaning of Declaratory Relief

Declaratory relief is a type of remedy sought by a party in a legal dispute. It allows the court to make a binding determination on an issue in controversy without requiring any further action or awarding damages. In other words, declaratory relief is a pre-emptive measure that establishes the parties’ rights without necessarily providing any resulting relief.

Declaratory relief claims are usually brought in situations where a party is uncertain about their legal rights or obligations under a contract, statute, or other legal document. The party can ask the court to ‘declare’ or clarify the legal status of something, usually before a breach has occurred, and thereby avoid costly litigation.

Examples of Declaratory Relief

  1. A company is facing legal action from a former employee, and they suspect that the employee may be likely to file additional claims. The company may seek declaratory relief to clarify their legal obligations regarding the employee, in order to resolve the dispute before the situation worsens.

  2. An individual may seek declaratory relief to clarify their status under a trust, in order to avoid future legal disputes over their right to certain trust assets.

  3. An insurance company might file a declaratory judgment action to determine whether they have a duty to defend or indemnify a policyholder who is facing a claim or lawsuit.

Legal Terms Similar to Declaratory Relief

  1. Injunction: A court order that requires a party to either take or refrain from taking a certain action.

  2. Arbitration: A form of alternative dispute resolution whereby an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators is appointed to make a binding determination on a dispute outside of court.

  3. Mediation: A voluntary and confidential form of alternative dispute resolution where a neutral third party helps parties to negotiate and reach a mutually acceptable agreement.