Nunc Pro Tunc

The Latin term nunc pro tunc translates literally to “now for then.” This term is commonly used in the U.S. legal system to signify that a court ruling or order applies retroactively to a ruling made at an earlier date. The most common use of nunc pro tunc is to correct clerical errors, or accidental omissions made by the court in a written order or ruling. To explore this concept, consider the following nunc pro tunc definition.

Definition of Nunc Pro Tunc

Pronounced     nu̇ŋkˌprōˈtu̇ŋk


  1. “Now for then,” as in a legal entry effective retroactively to a prior date on which it should have been made.


First Century    Latin

What is Nunc Pro Tunc

Latin terms abound in the U.S. legal system. The term nunc pro tunc is most commonly used to allow a judge a way to correct the written text of a ruling or order previously made, which was incorrectly written or expressed. The legal doctrine of nunc pro tunc can only be used to correct a mistake or omission in the written record, so that the record correctly reflects the actual events that took place at the proceeding. The key issue in whether a correction can be made nunc pro tunc is that it is a clerical mistake, not a judicial error, that is in need of rectification.

Obtaining a Nunc Pro Tunc Order

Obtaining a retroactive change to an existing court order involves showing that there was some error, accidental omission, or other issue which resulted in the original ruling being entered incorrectly. In many jurisdictions, a request for nunc pro tunc correction to an order is often granted ex parte, which means that only the party requesting the correction need appear, and no notice to the other party is required.

Example of Nunc Pro Tunc Order

Lilly and Sam attend a hearing to set child custody and child support matters during their divorce. A custody and visitation order is signed by the judge at the hearing, and the judge orders Sam to pay $950 per month in child support to Lilly. When Lilly receives her written copy of the court’s order, the child support is listed as $850 per month, which is incorrect. Lilly, or her attorney, may submit a request for a nunc pro tunc correction to the order, which would be effectively retroactive to the date the order was originally made at the hearing.

If, on the other hand, Lilly realized that the issue of which parent would have the children on Thanksgiving had not been settled, she could not ask the judge to add the holiday to the custody order that was signed on the date of the hearing, as that issue is not a simple correction to a clerical error. If Lilly wants to have custody of the children on Thanksgiving, and she cannot reach an agreement with Sam, she would have to file a motion to the court, and attend a hearing.

Related Legal Terms and Issues

  • Ex Parte – An action in a legal proceeding brought about by one party, without the participation or presence of the opposition.
  • Omission – The act of excluding or leaving something out; a failure to do something, especially something for which there is a moral or legal obligation to do.
  • Retroactive – Taking effect from a date in the past.