Gendered language in the law

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it can be tricky to do this when the words in the law don’t reflect gender diversity (and can quite often feel outdated).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

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.

Note: As of 1 April 2020, you no longer need to name the father of your child to get the Sole Parent Support (see: “Qualifying for Sole Parent Support”).

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 you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online:

Access the free “Pregnancy Rights: Your legal options before and after pregnancy” booklet, here. 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.
Email for a hard copy:
Phone: Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley – 04 499 2928

Family Court

The Family Court website covers many topics discussed in this chapter, including how the family court works, care of children, adoption and paternity.


New Zealand Law Society

The Law Society has helpful information on what happens with children when parents separate.


Inland Revenue

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

Phone: 0800 221 221

Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Supervised Contact Services (ANZASCS)

The ANZASCS website has information about supervised contact and lists contact details for approved providers of supervised contact services.


Alternative Dispute Resolution

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. The following list is not exhaustive:

Resolution Institute:
Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand Inc (AMINZ):
Family Works:

Oranga Tamariki/Ministry for Children

Oranga Tamariki’s website has information about the adoption process.

Phone: 0508 326 459

Department of Internal Affairs

The DIA website has information on how to obtain original birth certificates for adopted children.


Registering your child’s birth

The Smartstart website allows you to register your baby’s birth 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.

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