In New Zealand, if the father of a child is not obvious following the birth of that child, there are two ways you can determine this at law.

The first option involves asking the Family Court to make a paternity order.

The second option is where a Declaration of Paternity is made to the High Court declaring that a man is, or is not, the father of the child.

The difference between the two depends on who is applying and the time limit within which an application can be made.

In the first option, a mother can ask the Court for a paternity order to indicate that someone is the father of her child. However, the law states different factors that can limit an application.

If the child is six years of age or older, the only way the mother can apply for an order is if the alleged father has paid maintenance, or has lived with the mother, within two years prior to the application being made.

Furthermore, the law limits who the order can be made against. If the mother is married, or has previously been married, to the alleged father, an order cannot be made. This is based on the ‘legal presumption’ that the mother’s husband is the child’s father.

On the flipside, if the mother wishes to prove the non-paternity of the man she is in a relationship with, the same application can be made.

Circumstances such as a de facto relationship or civil union partnerships also prohibit a paternity order being made. This includes a marriage or civil union partnership that existed before the conception of the child. These partnerships can also give rise to someone being named as the father on the birth certificate, so long as both parties consent to the registration.

The second option for which paternity or non-paternity may be proven is where a mother or some other person, such as the potential father, can apply for a declaration of paternity.

Applications for a declaration of paternity have no time limit according to the law. This gives the alleged father the ability to prove or disprove their paternity in Court.

Often these declarations require DNA tests to be completed as evidence to either prove or disprove paternity.

A declaration of paternity is conclusive evidence which both the Family Court and High Court have jurisdiction to make. Once this has been made, the Court may enforce a requirement for child support payments. The father is also likely to be given responsibilities regarding the child.

A declaration of paternity or non-paternity provides a mother or father with an important level of certainty, but the child’s welfare is at the core of the law. Giving stability and support to a child is paramount. This is why the law has various factors and limitations to consider before making a declaration for paternity.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.

Shaun Cousins & Brianna Cadwallader

Please note that Rainey Collins is not contracted to provide Legal Aid, other than in the Treaty of Waitangi area.  We therefore are unable to take on any Civil or Family Legal Aid work. If you require Legal Aid in those areas, you can search the list of Legal Aid lawyers on the Ministry of Justice website.