Gendered language in the law

When possible we like to use non-gendered language to honour non-binary communities. However, it can be tricky to do this when the words in the law don’t reflect gender diversity (and can quite often feel outdated).

In this section we use the same language as in the legislation but acknowledge that it doesn’t represent all the types of parenting relationships in our communities today.

What is paternity?

Paternity is a word for fatherhood of a child. It can be very important when:

  • a parent wants to prove that a man is or is not the father of a child
  • a parent applies for a Parenting Order for care of children
  • a mother applies for child support from the father
  • a mother applies for a benefit to support herself and the child
  • a child claims inheritance and property rights from someone they believe to be their father
  • a person claims citizenship based on their father’s citizenship.

Proving paternity for the Sole Parent Support benefit

Social Security Act 2018, ss 192–194 (repealed)

In the past, women applying for the benefit Sole Parent Support (or the previous Domestic Purposes Benefit – “DPB”) had often needed to name the father of their child. Work and Income had the power to decrease the amount of their benefit if they refused to name the father. On 1 April 2020 the law changed, so that Work and Income no longer have this power.

See “Types of benefits” in the chapter “Dealing with Work and Income”

Next Section | Proving paternity

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Parents, guardians and caregivers

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide initial free legal advice and information.

Oranga Tamariki / Ministry for Children

Phone: 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459)

This web page has information about the adoption process.

Family Court

The Family Court website includes information on the topics in this chapter.

Family Court fee waiver forms

Department of Internal Affairs

This DIA webpage has information on how to obtain original birth certificates for adopted children.

Parents can now register their baby’s birth online at:

“What happens to your children when you part?” (pamphlet)
Phone: (04) 472 7837

This New Zealand Law Society pamphlet covers guardianship, care of and contact with children, how disputes are resolved, and other child-focused issues. Access the pamphlet online or order hardcopies from the New Zealand Law Society.

Inland Revenue

Phone: 0800 221 221

Inland Revenue’s Child Support webpage has a wide range of forms and guides for parents and caregivers.

Alternative dispute resolution – Resolution Institute is a community of mediators, arbitrators, adjudicators, restorative justice practitioners and other DR professionals. – AMINZ (Arbitrators and Mediators Institute of New Zealand).

There are many kinds of “alternative dispute resolution” that, depending on your personal situation, may be cheaper and more successful than going to the Family Court. These include counselling, mediation and negotiation. You can find out more at the above websites

Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Supervised Contact Services

The ANZASCS website has information about organisations that are approved as providers of supervised contact services.

“Pregnancy Rights: Your legal options before and after pregnancy” booklet

This booklet contains practical answers to questions about pregnancy and the law, and includes information on sexual health and consent, options after a positive pregnancy test, healthcare, education, housing and more.

Order hard copies from:
Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley
Phone: (04) 499 2928

Email: or visit to buy a copy or access free online.

Also available as a book

The Community Law Manual

The Manual contains over 1000 pages of easy-to-read legal info and comprehensive answers to common legal questions. From ACC to family law, health & disability, jobs, benefits & flats, Tāonga Māori, immigration and refugee law and much more, the Manual covers just about every area of community and personal life.

Buy The Community Law Manual

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