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Ratio Decidendi

The general precedent upon which a case is decided.

It is the general rule of law that causes the case to be decided one way or another. An example would be the principle that a person cannot be punished for exercising a constitutional right or making a constitutionally protected choice, i.e. the court finds that it cannot limit a parent’s future possession of a child because of protected decisions the parents jointly made regarding allocation of child care duties while married to each other. Just because the parents, when married to each other, decided that one would stay home and care for the child while the other works, doesn’t mean that the court can impose that choice into the future after the parents divorce because doing so would be punishment for making those previous protected decisions.

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