What Is an Abeyance Order and How Does It Work?

What Is an Abeyance Order and How Does It Work?

When ownership of a property is uncertain, it is held in abeyance until the true owner is determined. Abeyance orders are employed in cases where parties involved in litigation agree to temporarily resolve the matter. Such orders are also frequently used in bankruptcy proceedings.


An abeyance order is a court order that temporarily holds the legal right to property or claims until matters are resolved. It places the right to a property, title, or office in an expectant state, where no one has a vested claim until the true owner is determined. In advertising, an abeyance order occurs when an advertiser requests a media slot on television or radio that is currently unavailable. Consequently, the order is held in abeyance until a suitable advertising slot becomes open.

A Closer Look at Abeyance Order

Temporary resolution of litigation can be achieved while retaining the ability to seek relief at a later time through abeyance orders. This flexibility allows organizations to resolve without committing to specific actions in the future. Such orders are commonly utilized in bankruptcy proceedings when the rightful owner or mortgage holder of a property is uncertain, prompting the court to hold the claim in abeyance.

The prevalence of this situation increased significantly after the U.S. housing market collapsed in 2008, leading to a surge in foreclosures. In jurisdictions following the lien theory of mortgages, mortgagees do not obtain title to a delinquent debtor's property until a court grants an order of foreclosure. Additionally, abeyance orders find application in cases of shipwrecks, where the rightful party entitled to salvage the ship and its cargo is yet to be determined.

Abeyance Orders in the English Peerage and Litigation

Abeyance orders find common use in the English peerage, especially when there is no legitimate claimant to inherit a peerage title. While most titles are passed down to sons, in certain cases, a daughter can inherit if she is an only child or if her siblings have no heirs. If there are multiple female heirs, the title will be held in abeyance until one person represents the claims of all female heirs.

This situation can persist for hundreds of years, as seen with the Barony of Grey of Codnor, which remained in abeyance for over 490 years from 1496 until 1989. During this period, the claim was called out of abeyance in favor of the Cornwall-Legh family.

Apart from the peerage context, abeyance orders are also used in litigation to temporarily settle disputes, allowing parties the option to resume litigation later if needed. Organizations with varying political perspectives or membership changes may use abeyance in this way to settle a matter without committing to a fixed course of action. For instance, a Canadian lawsuit involving the University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) and a campus pro-life club was put into abeyance. During this time, UVSS agreed to temporarily restore the withheld funding, granting the pro-life club a favorable outcome while avoiding lawsuit costs. Both parties retained the right to return to court if necessary in the future.


Abeyance orders are useful legal tools that can help temporarily settle disputes and hold property rights in an expectant state until the true owner is determined. They are commonly used in litigation and bankruptcy proceedings, as well as in the English peerage. Abeyance orders provide organizations with the flexibility to resolve without committing to specific actions in the future.

Abeyance Order
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