Proving paternity

How do you prove paternity?

Status of Children Act 1969, s 8

There are a number of ways you can prove paternity:

  • if a man is married to the child’s mother, there is a “legal presumption” that the mother’s husband is the father, meaning the court supposes this to be true, or
  • if a man is named on the child’s birth certificate as the father of the child, or
  • if a father and mother sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity, or
  • if a court makes a Paternity Order stating that a man is the father of a child (including an order made in a country outside New Zealand), or
  • if the Family Court or the High Court makes a declaration of paternity that says that a man is the father of a child.

Note:  A declaration of paternity is the only way of conclusively proving paternity. This means that the other methods of proving paternity can be challenged in court.

Husband presumed to be the child’s father

Status of Children Act 1969, s 5

When there’s no evidence pointing otherwise, the man is presumed to be the father of a child if:

  • he was married to the child’s mother at the time of the child’s birth, or
  • the child was born within 10 months of the marriage ending.

The mother can take the matter to court if she wants to prove this man is not the father of the child.

If a man is not married to the child’s mother, but is in a de facto or civil union relationship with her, paternity has to be proven in one of the other ways explained below.

How is a father named on a child’s birth certificate?

Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act 2021, ss 12, 20

If the child’s parents are legally married to each other, or in a civil union or de facto relationship with each other, both parents sign the birth registration form, which is then given to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

If a Registrar is satisfied that a child only has one parent, or the other parent is unavailable, or it would be too distressing otherwise, only one parent has to sign the birth registration form.

If a man was not married, in a civil union or de facto relationship with the mother of a child any time between the conception of the child (when the woman became pregnant) and the birth of the child, he can only be named on the child’s birth certificate if:

  • he signed the birth registration form with the mother, or
  • he gave written permission, also signed by the mother, to put his name on the birth certificate, or
  • he signed the birth registration form on his own because the mother was unable to sign. This could be because she was dead, or missing, or of unsound mind, or unable to act because of a medical condition, or
  • the Family Court made a Paternity Order, or guardianship order in his favour stating that he should be named on the child’s birth certificate, or
  • he has been declared by the Family Court or the High Court to be the father of the child (see: “Declaration of paternity”).

Acknowledgement of paternity

Status of Children Act 1969, s 8

A man can sign an “Acknowledgement of Paternity,” saying that he is the father of the child. The acknowledgement must also be signed by the mother and signed and witnessed by a lawyer. This document is called a “Deed of Acknowledgement of Paternity”.

Next Section | Paternity orders

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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.


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