Garrison v Fitzgibbon [2019] NZFC 116

Published 03 December 2019

Adoption — dispensing with father's consent — failure to exercise duty and care of parenthood — welfare and best interests of child — Adoption Act 1955, ss 8, 11 & 13 — Family Court Rules 2002, rr 133(1)(a) & 195 — Re RMF [2013] NZFC 314. A couple applied to adopt an eight year old child, who was the biological son of the female applicant. Initially, the applicants sought to dispense with the biological father's consent to an adoption order, but the biological father subsequently said he did not consent to the order and wanted to seek legal advice. The hearing was put off for five months, during which time the biological father took no steps in the proceedings, made no efforts to communicate with the child or his mother and failed to show up to court. The biological father was notified of this hearing but again failed to take part. The applicants therefore still required the biological father's consent to be dispensed with under s 8 of the Adoption Act. This section provides that if the Court is satisfied the parent has abandoned, neglected, or persistently ill-treated the child, or failed to exercise the normal duty and care of parenthood in respect of the child and the parent has been given reasonable notice of the adoption application, then the Court may dispense with that parent's consent to the adoption. The applicant mother showed evidence of years of the biological father failing to exercise contact, mediate or communicate with the child. There had been no contact between the child and his biological father since he was less than two years old. The biological father had provided no financial, emotional or physical support to the child. For these reasons, the Judge found that the biological father had failed to exercise the normal duty and care of parenthood in respect of the child and so his consent was dispensed with under s 8. A social work report confirmed the applicants were fit and proper people to parent the child, which they had successfully been doing for years. It was in the welfare and best interests of the child to have the emotional and legal security that an adoption order would provide. A final adoption order was granted, making the applicants the legal parents of the child. Judgment Date: 10 January 2019. * * * Note: names have been changed to comply with legal requirements. * * *