Edwards v Houghton  NZFC 2716
Published 16 April 2019
Discharge of adoption order — material misrepresentation — abuse — Adoption Act 1955.
The two applicants applied to discharge an adoption order. The two women, along with their sister, were adopted by Mr Houghton in 1971. Throughout the applicants' childhood their adoptive father abused them both physically and sexually. He was charged, convicted and imprisoned for this abuse in the 1990s.
The applicants wanted to discharge the adoption order in order to sever the legal relationship that existed between them and their adoptive father. They did not want to be associated with him because of the abuse he had subjected them to.
Under the Adoption Act, an order can be discharged where it can be shown that the order was obtained in circumstances where there was a mistake as to a material fact or a material misrepresentation. The applicants submitted there was a material misrepresentation when the adoption order was granted, being that Mr Houghton was a fit and proper person to parent the girls.
The Court agreed with the applicants' submission on material misrepresentation. Had the Court known Mr Houghton was a physically and sexually abusive person the adoption order would never have been granted.
The application was granted and the adoption order was discharged. The Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages was to issue fresh birth certificates showing the applicant's original particulars rather than the adoptive particulars.
Judgment Date: 12 April 2018.
* * * Note: Names have been changed to comply with legal requirements * * *