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?

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?

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.

Did this answer your question?

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.


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