You may have heard the term ‘Slip Rule’ in relation to family law, and wondered what it meant. Here, we explain what this rule relates to and how it is used in the court system.
The Slip Rule is applied in all areas of law, not just family law, but when it relates to family law matters it is governed by the Family Law Rules 2004. Sometimes regarded as a judge’s safety net, it is a rule which allows judges to amend orders if it becomes apparent that the orders made contain an accidental slip, clerical error, mistake or omission—for example, if one of the parties’ names is misspelt, but also in situations there is a typo as to dates for compliance or similar.
The judge is able to then vary the orders without bringing the parties back to court after the matter has been finalised, with the aim of ensuring orders accurately and clearly reflect the court’s true intentions. The orders can be amended by consent of the parties or at the judge’s discretion. Usually the revised orders having a heading on the front page ‘Amended’ but the date of the orders will still be the original date the orders were made, in other words, you won’t end up with 2 dates, the first date and the amended date.
Quite different to minor amendments under the ‘slip rule’, is the power of the court to set aside or vary court orders upon someone’s application for a range of reasons, such as if an order was made in the absence of the other party, was obtained by fraud, or an order needs to be varied to deal with a new situation (such as an order for the sale of a house needs to be more detailed, because there is dispute or confusion as to how an order is to be carried out).
The Slip Rule does not permit reconsideration of the substance of a court’s ruling, and a 2017 case (Pawley v Pawley) established that the Slip Rule can only be used if the proposed amendment relates to something where there can be no real difference of opinion.
While the Slip Rule is employed to rectify or fix an order so that it reflects the spirit and intent of the orders, it can’t be used to add any further orders or to make any changes that essentially change the substance of the orders or agreement. As such, when the Slip Rule is used, it doesn’t make any difference to the mechanisms of orders but rather makes the arrangements clearer and provides conclusive certainty about the end result.
The Slip Rule is a safety mechanism and a handy tool used by the courts to remedy accidental errors made either by the court, the parties or through the oversight of their representatives.
Can you use the Slip Rule to change your final orders?
If you actually wish to amend your final orders so that their substance and effect changes, you’ll need to make an application to the court to set aside final orders, which must be based on reasonable grounds because the courts don’t typically wish to reopen matters that have already finalised. To avoid the need for amendments under the Slip Rule, you should ensure you fully understand your orders and check each line of an agreement to make sure your consent relates to all aspects of the agreement.
If you need advice in relating to varying your orders, or with another family law matter, please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Legal Services on (02) 6223 2400. Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Legal Services.