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Family law


Declaration of paternity

What is a declaration of paternity?

Status of Children Act 1969, ss 84, 10

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?

Status of Children Act 1969, s 10

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 (man), or
  • the child, or
  • any other person who the result will effect.

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

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

Status of Children Act 1969, s 103

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 initial free legal advice and information.

Oranga Tamariki / Ministry for Children


Phone: 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459)
Email: enquiry@ot.govt.nz

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

“What happens to your children when you part?” (pamphlet)

Phone: (04) 472 7837
Email: pamphlets@lawsociety.org.nz

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

www.resolution.institute – Resolution Institute is a community of mediators, arbitrators, adjudicators, restorative justice practitioners and other DR professionals.

www.aminz.org.nz – 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: publications@wclc.org.nz or visit www.communitylaw.org.nz to buy a copy or access free online.

Also available as a book

The Community Law Manual

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