Paternity determines the father of a child and can come in handy for mothers who need to apply for child support or seek a parenting order. It might also be useful in future to your child as they may seek inheritance or citizenship based on their father’s rights and identity.
You do not need to apply for a paternity order to receive a benefit. In the past, Work and Income used to require mothers to have taken steps to establish the paternity of their child in order to seek Sole Parent Support. As of April 2020, Work and Income no longer have the power to reduce the amount of benefit received by a mother if she refuses to name the father of her child.
To apply for a paternity order or a declaration of paternity, forms that you need to fill in are available on the Ministry of Justice website.
To prove the father of a child for child support purposes, a mother can apply to the Family Court for a paternity order. This provides conclusive evidence that a man is the father of a child.
Paternity orders can only be made against men who:
Is not, and was never married to, or in a civil union with, the mother of the child
Has been married to, or in a civil union with, the mother of the child, but this relationship was dissolved before the conception of the child
Applications for paternity orders usually have a six year time limit following the child’s birth. Certain circumstances may be allowed an extension. Community Law has more information about paternity orders on their website.
Declaration of paternity
To officialise the paternity of a child, you can apply to receive a declaration of paternity from the Family Court. These are usually made to establish rights of inheritance and prove conclusive evidence of paternity.
Anyone with a proper interest in the result, including the mother, child, or alleged father, can apply for a declaration of paternity. Applying for a declaration is the only way a man can prove or disprove paternity.
There are no time limits placed upon applications for a declaration of paternity. Community Law has more information about declaration of paternity on their website.
Birth certificates require that both parents register their child’s birth. If both parents sign this, establishing paternity is a lot easier. If the father refuses to sign the birth certificate, you can seek a paternity order.
Paternity can be determined through DNA parentage tests. If a court orders these tests as part of establishing paternity, the cost is shared between mother and alleged father. If paternity is proven, the mother can then get her lawyer to argue that the father pays the full cost.
Citizens Advice Bureau has some great information on their website regarding commonly-asked questions to do with paternity: