Paternity order

What is a Paternity Order?

Family Proceedings Act 1980, ss 47–53

A Paternity Order is an order made by the Family Court saying that the court is satisfied that a man is the father of a child. Paternity orders are considered “conclusive” evidence of paternity meaning it basically can’t be challenged, for example you could not challenge it to apply for child support from someone else.

Who can apply for a Paternity Order?

Family Proceedings Act 1980, s 471

The mother of a child (and in some circumstances, someone else on behalf of the mother) can apply to the Family Court for a Paternity Order.

Who can a Paternity Order be made against?

Family Proceedings Act 1980, s 47

An application for a Paternity Order can only be made against a man who:

  • is not and has never been married to, or in a civil union with, the mother of the child, or
  • has been married to, or in a civil union with, the mother of the child, but this relationship stopped before the woman became pregnant (conception of the child).

Time limits for applying for a Paternity Order

Family Proceedings Act 1980, s 49

Applications for Paternity Orders can be made up to the child’s sixth birthday. A later application can be made:

  • if at any time before the application is made the man has admitted he is the child’s father, or
  • if within the two years before the application the man has either:
  • lived with the mother as if he were her husband or civil union partner, or
  • contributed towards the maintenance of the child (this can include financial support or gifts).

Can a Paternity Order declare that a man is not the child’s father?

Family Proceedings Act 1980, s 51

Yes. If the court is satisfied that a man is not the father of the child it can make an order declaring that he is not the father of the child. The court can do this on its own or if you ask the court to do so.

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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.

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