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The other parent

Who’s the other parent (“Paternity”)

When possible we like to use non-gendered language to honour non-binary communities. However, it can be tricky to do this when the words in the law don’t reflect gender diversity (and can quite often feel outdated).

For example, in the Care of Children Act 2004, gendered words like father and fatherhood are used to refer to the other natural biological parent (“paternal parent”). The process of figuring out or confirming who’s the other parent is referred to as “establishing legal fatherhood”.

What is paternity?

Paternity is the legal word to refer to the biological parent who is not pregnant or who has not given birth to the child. In the law this is called “fatherhood”.

Why is paternity important?

Establishing paternity can be important for many reasons, including the well-being of the child’s parents and caregivers.

Paternity can also affect a number of important legal rights and responsibilities, including:

  • a parent’s entitlement to day-to-day care of, or contact with a child
  • a parent’s responsibility for paying Child Support
  • a child’s right to inherit property from the person they believe is their parent
  • a child’s right to New Zealand citizenship (if this is based on the other parent’s citizenship).

Do you need to establish paternity to get Sole Parent Support from Work and Income?

Social Assistance Legislation (Budget 2019 Welfare Package) Amendment Act 2019, s 6

No. Work and Income don’t have the power to reduce or refuse your Sole Parent benefit if you do not name the other parent of the child.

How is paternity established?

Status of Children Act 1969, ss 5, 7, 8,9

A person will be presumed to be the father of the child if they:

  • admit that they are the father (either by words or actions), or
  • are named on the child’s birth certificate as the father of the child, or
  • were married to you at the time of the child’s birth or if the child was born within 10 months of the marriage ending, or
  • sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity document, which is also signed by the mother and is witnessed by a lawyer.

Did this answer your question?

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide initial free legal advice and information.

Also available as a book

Pregnancy Rights

A basic, plain language guide that contains practical answers to questions about pregnancy and the law. It covers sex and consent, options after a positive pregnancy test, what help you can get with school, work, and parenting and more. Pregnancy Rights is written for young pregnant people, their whānau and advocates.

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