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Declaration of paternity

Status of Children Act 1969, s 10

What is a declaration of paternity?

A declaration of paternity is an official statement by the Family Court or High Court that shows a man is the father of a child. A declaration of paternity is “conclusive evidence” of paternity meaning that it can’t be challenged. It is usually applied for when the mother or the child wants to establish rights of inheritance.

Who can apply for a declaration of paternity?

If there is a disagreement about who the father of a child is, the following people may apply to the Family Court or the High Court for a declaration of paternity:

  • the mother, or
  • the alleged father, or
  • the child, or
  • any other person who will be affected by the result

An application can be made even if the alleged father or the child are dead.

Can a declaration state that a man is not the child’s father?

Yes. If the court is satisfied that a man is not the father of the child it can make a declaration of non-paternity. The court can do this on its own or if you ask it to.

How does a court establish paternity?

A court will look at things like:

  • the history of the relationship between the mother and the alleged father and whether the relationship was known to anyone else
  • when and how the child was conceived
  • medical evidence about the birth
  • whether the man has admitted to sexual intercourse with the mother or admitted at any time he was the father
  • whether the mother had sexual intercourse with any other man around the time of the child’s conception (to find out whether anyone else could be the child’s father).

Family Proceedings Act 1980, ss 54–59

Often, the court will recommend that paternity tests (a DNA test) be done to help find out paternity. These involve either blood samples or mouth swab samples being taken from the alleged father, the mother and from the child. The man can refuse to have the test, but the court can take the refusal into account in making its decision. Legal Aid is available for paternity tests.

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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: communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

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: publications@wclc.org.nz
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.

Website: www.justice.govt.nz/family

New Zealand Law Society

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

Website: www.lawsociety.org.nz/for-the-public/common-legal-issues/what-happens-to-your-children-when-you-part

Inland Revenue

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

Website: www.ird.govt.nz/topics/child-support
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.

Website: www.anzascs.org.nz

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: www.resolution.institute
Website: www.aminz.org.nz
Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand Inc (AMINZ): www.fdrc.co.nz
FairWay: www.fairwayresolution.com
Family Works: www.familyworkscentral.org.nz

Oranga Tamariki/Ministry for Children

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

Website: www.orangatamariki.govt.nz/adoption/adopting-in-nz
Phone: 0508 326 459

Department of Internal Affairs

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

Website: www.govt.nz/browse/family-and-whanau/adoption-and-fostering/finding-your-birth-parents

Registering your child’s birth

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

Website: www.smartstart.services.govt.nz/register-my-baby

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