How long can I wait after having a child, before I have to register the birth?
According to the Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages, both parents (with some exceptions) have to register their child’s birth “as soon as is reasonably practicable after the birth”, which generally means within two months of the birth.
You’re normally given a Notification of Birth for Registration form after the birth. If you need to get this form, contact the Births, Deaths and Marriages office.
After you’ve completed the form, send it to:
Births, Deaths and Marriages
PO Box 31203
Lower Hutt 5040
It should take about eight working days to process the registration.
My brother wants to give his child a name I think is really foolish. Isn't there a law that prevents people from giving their children silly names?
Under the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act section 18, you can register a baby under any name as long as it’s not offensive, unreasonably long (more than 100 characters), or an official title or rank (even if you use alternative spellings). If the name your brother wants to give his child is not acceptable, he will be informed when he registers the birth.
Some examples of names which have been rejected in the past include: Justice; V8, single letters, numbers and symbols, President and Queen.
You could try discussing your concern with your brother if you think that the name will cause the child unnecessary trauma later in life, but in the end you have to respect the parents’ decision. In any case, the child has the option of changing their own name once they reach the age of 18 years.
If you want to be sure that a baby’s name will be accepted by the Births, Deaths and Marriages, you can call them on 0800 22 52 52 to find out.
Can I give my child their father’s surname even if he refuses to acknowledge the child?
In New Zealand, you can choose to give your child your surname, the father’s surname, or any other surname you want - as long as it is an acceptable name (see the previous question). It doesn’t have the same legal implications of paternity that having the father’s name on the child’s birth certificate would.
You can discuss this further with Births, Deaths and Marriages by calling 0800 22 52 52.
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How do I get a copy of my birth certificate?
You can apply for a birth certificate by:
It costs around $26 for a basic birth certificate, more if you want a package that includes one copy on fancy paper.
More information about Getting a copy of a birth certificate is on the BDM website.
Can I get a copy of my birth certificate if I wasn’t born in New Zealand?
The office of Births, Deaths and Marriages is only able to supply you with a copy of your birth certificate if your birth was registered in New Zealand.
If your birth was registered in another country you can contact the relevant embassy, consulate or High Commission. To find the embassy, consulate or High Commission for your country of birth, search the list of Foreign Representatives to New Zealand on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.
When can information on a birth certificate be changed?
To correct an error
If you find an error on the birth certificate (e.g. a name has been mis-spelled), you can apply to Births, Deaths and Marriages for it to be corrected. They may ask you to provide a statutory declaration relating to the change, or other evidence that the original piece of information was incorrect.
After a name change
If you change your name officially by registering it with Births, Deaths and Marriages and subsequently apply for a new birth certificate, the birth certificate will have your new name on it as well as any names you had before.
If a child is adopted, the adoptive parents will be issued with a new birth certificate showing their names as the child’s parents. The older birth certificate showing the child’s birth parents is referred to as the pre-adoptive birth certificate. You can read more about this on our Adoption page.
After gender reassignment
You can apply for the sex recorded on your birth certificate to be changed (e.g. if you have undergone gender reassignment).
This is available to adults (aged 18 years or more, or less than 18 years but in a marriage, civil union or de facto relationship) whose birth was registered in New Zealand or who was born overseas but is a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident.
You have to apply to the Family Court, who must be satisfied that the sex shown on your current birth certificate is not the one you identify with. If successful, you’ll be issued a new birth certificate with the changed gender and the old one will be only be accessible by Courts and the Police.
There is more about this on the Gender Bridge website and the Department of Internal Affairs’ Information for Transgender Applications.
In rare cases it is possible to get a new birth certificate (and other official documents) in order to create a new identity for a witness.
Adding, removing or changing the name of the child’s father
If you want to add, remove or replace the father’s name on a birth certificate, its best to contact the Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages. It can be a complex issue and whether this kind of change is allowed will depend on the situation.
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Do I have any choice over whether or not I’m named on my child’s birth certificate as the father?
The birth certificate is a record of the registration of a child’s birth. The law says that both parents must register their child’s birth, unless:
- the child has only one parent in law (e.g. if the child was adopted or conceived through a form of assisted reproduction, by a single parent)
- the other parent is unavailable (e.g. they are deceased or in another country)
- doing so would cause “unwarranted distress” (e.g. if the non-signing parent presents a threat to the other parent).
Even if you aren't named as the child’s father on the birth certificate, it’s still possible for paternity to be established in other ways.
What would be the implications of not naming my baby’s father when registering the birth?
The birth certificate is an official record of the birth registration, and is evidence of a child’s paternity.
This means that whether a child’s father is named on the birth certificate can have implications about his rights and obligations regarding the child.
If the father’s name is not on the birth certificate, he can sign a written notice asking to be recorded as the child’s father – but may need legal advice before proceeding. See When can information on a birth certificate be changed?
If the child’s father is not named on the birth certificate then he may not have to pay child support unless paternity is established in other ways.
Sole Parent Support payments
If the mother successfully applies for a Sole Parent Support benefit from Work and Income, her payments may be reduced if she will not identify the father e.g. if the child’s birth certificate does not name the father (though there are other ways to establish paternity).
If the birth certificate does name the father (or paternity has been otherwise established), then WINZ will require the father to pay child support to them.
Important decisions about the child’s upbringing
If the father is named on the child’s birth certificate, then he is generally treated as a guardian of the child (unless guardianship is removed by the Family Court). The Ministry of Justice website has more details of the guardianship criteria.
As a guardian, the father would be entitled to have contact with your child (unless the Court believes this is not in the child’s interests) and have a say in the child‘s care (for example where the child goes to school, or major medical decisions). It can also mean that the father can take over as the main caregiver if something happens to the mother.
If the child’s father is not named on the birth certificate, and he was not in a relationship with the mother around the time of the birth, then he may have few rights regarding the child’s care. He can apply to the Family Court to be appointed a legal guardian, though this is likely to involve applying for a paternity order.
More information about guardianship of a child when the parents are not together is on our Parenting after separation page.
Application for New Zealand citizenship by descent
If mother and child are not New Zealand citizens but the father is, then applying for New Zealand citizenship by descent for the child is more straightforward if the father’s name is on the child’s birth certificate. Otherwise, the mother would need to provide extra information to establish paternity. More information about applying for New Zealand citizenship is on our Citizenship page.