Home | Browse Topics | Prisoner's rights | | Paternity Orders

Prisoner's rights

The other parent

Paternity Orders

What is a “Paternity Order”?

Family Proceedings Act 1980, s 51

A Paternity Order or Declaration of Paternity from the court is conclusive evidence that a person is the father of a child.

The baby’s other parent refuses to acknowledge they are the other parent. What can I do?

Family Proceedings Act 1980, ss 47, 49

If you are not married to the other parent, and the child is under six, you can apply for a Paternity Order from the Family Court. You can apply for an Order while you are still pregnant. The Court might ask the other parent to take a DNA test (which might need to be done after the baby is born).

A Paternity Order is conclusive evidence of paternity for Child Support and for relevant Work and Income benefit applications.

A lawyer at Community Law can help you with this application for free, although you should think about hiring a lawyer to make the application for you. If you can’t afford a lawyer to make a Paternity Order application, you may be able to get legal aid to cover the costs. See the section on “Legal Aid” for more information.

When do I need to apply for a Paternity Order?

Family Proceedings Act 1980, s 49

You need to apply for a paternity order before your child is 6 years old. There are some exceptions to this, such as if you have been living with the other parent before making the order, or if the other parent has admitted that they are the father.

You can talk to a lawyer at a Community Law Centre about whether these exceptions apply to your situation.

Can anyone else apply for a Paternity Order for me?

Family Proceedings Act, s 47

Yes – if you are under 16, anyone who has the role of providing you with day-to-day care can apply for a Paternity Order. For example, if you are still living at home your caregivers could apply. You can also give written consent for a social worker to make the application on your behalf.

How does the court decide who the other parent is? (“establish paternity”)

Family Proceedings Act 1980, ss 54–59

The court needs to be convinced that it is “more probable than not” that a person is the father (or other parent). The court will look at things like:

  • the history of your relationship and whether other people knew about your relationship
  • the likely dates of sex compared with the date of the baby’s birth
  • whether or not you had any other sexual partners around the time your child was conceived (to establish whether anyone else could be the child’s father)
  • whether the person has acknowledged paternity, either through words or actions.

Often, the court will recommend that DNA tests are done to help determine paternity.

What does a DNA test involve?

DNA tests involve either blood samples or mouth swab samples to be taken from you, from the person believed to be the father, and from your child. These samples are then sent to a specialist laboratory for tests to compare DNA. The tests determine if a person is more likely than not to be the other parent of your baby or if he is unlikely to be the other parent.

Do I have to pay for DNA testing?

Usually you will split the cost of DNA testing with the person believed to be the father. If paternity is established, your lawyer could ask for your share of the costs to be paid back to you by that person.

Can the other parent refuse to undergo DNA testing?

Family Proceedings Act 1980, s 57

Yes. The person who is believed to be the father can refuse to have the test, but the court can take their refusal into account when it makes its decision.

If a person refuses to have a DNA test, the court could consider that they are refusing because they are the likely other parent and don’t want it to be proved. If other things point to them being the father, the court can decide that the standard of reasonable proof has been reached and make a Paternity Order anyway.

Can I give my child the other parent’s surname even if they refuse to acknowledge the child?

Yes. If the other parent refuses to sign the birth certificate, then you will need to choose the name yourself. If you want to, you can give your child the other parent’s surname.

The other parent can’t apply to have the child’s name changed unless they become a guardian. For more information see the section on “Guardianship”. The court will only change the child’s name if it’s in the best interests of the child – the parent’s feelings don’t affect the decision.

Next Section | Caring for a child

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.

Buy Pregnancy Rights

Help the manual

We’re a small team that relies on the generosity of all our supporters. You can make a one-off donation or become a supporter by sponsoring the Manual for a community organisation near you. Every contribution helps us to continue updating and improving our legal information, year after year.

Donate Become a Supporter

Find the Answer to your Legal Question

back to top