The ‘slip rule’ – a Judge’s safety net? What is it and how does it work?

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind if I say ‘ slip rule ’? No, this is not some personal injury article about a guy slipping on a banana peel at Woolies… The ‘ slip rule’ is actually a commonly known concept across the legal fraternity as it finds application in just about any area of law.

In short, it is a rule that allows Judges to amend their Orders, if they contain an accidental slip, mistake or omission. The idea is to ensure that the Order that issued truly reflects the Order that the Court pronounced or intended to pronounce. It’s a safety mechanism to allow Judges to rectify such inaccuracies administratively, without the need to recall parties back to Court.

The application of this rule was recently looked at in a family law parenting matter.

In case of Minjarez, the Court made Orders for the children to spend time with each parent between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day and sought to distinguish this time from the school holiday time, which was to be shared equally between the parents. However, when the Orders were handed down, no specification was provided as to the time that was to occur on those days. Under the ‘ slip rule ’ the Judge later inserted specification of time for the children to spend with each parent on those days. The Father appealed.

Counsel for the Father argued that what the Judge sought to do under the ‘ slip rule ’ was in fact more than a mere rectification or fixing of the Order and amounted to a substantial alteration of the Order.

Despite this, the Full Court ultimately found that Her Honour’s amendment did nothing more than “ give greater clarity to an intention that is abundantly plain from Her Honour’s reasons ” and therefore, Her Honour’s use of the ‘ slip rule ’ in this case was found to be appropriate.

Practitioners in family law circles would know that the ‘ slip rule ’ is a handy tool to be aware of. Given the voluminous amounts of cases that Judges in our Courts deal with on a daily basis, when those Orders issue, some bits and pieces are bound to slip (pun intended) through the cracks and it is then that the slip rule can become a very useful mean of ensuring that the true spirit and intention of the Orders is reflected. However, its application, as this case shows, can be tricky.

Call Michael Benedetti, Senior Associate now to make an appointment so that he can help you through the complex family law system so that you get the best outcome possible.

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