How to get divorced in Croatia (with kids)
Divorce happens sometimes. It can be challenging for spouses to part ways, especially if there are children in the equation.
Knowing the process in Croatia and your rights can help make the process a bit easier. There are so many things to consider when in this type of situation, and it can be hard to know where to start.
Croatia offers two paths to divorce, depending on whether you have children. This guide is for married couples or life partners who have at least one minor child and wish to divorce.
If you wish to divorce your spouse or life partner and you do not have children, then this post will guide you through the process.
In this post, we cover:
- How to get divorced if you have children
- Right to alimony
- Marital property
- Get an introduction to an expat-vetted divorce lawyer
Administrative costs associated with this procedure are available here.
The facts are these…
How to get divorced in Croatia if you have children
Getting a divorce in Croatia is a multi-step process when you have children. The government has procedures in place to protect the interests and safety of the child.
Step #1 Visit Social Services
Social Services (called Centar za socijalnu skrb in Croatian) facilitates the divorce of families with minor children. There are locations throughout Croatia. To get started, visit the office closest to where the minor is registered or where the couple lived together for the previous 6 months.
The list of all Social Services in Croatia is available here.
For example, if you and your spouse have been separated (living at different addresses), then you would use the address where you lived before separating.
rastava - separation, end of marital union
razvod - divorce, finalized by court
You may visit Social Services in person, or send them an email, to notify them that you intend to divorce.
Social services will set two appointments without lawyers present.
During this appointment, Social Services will counsel you and your spouse about how the divorce will legally impact your family. At this time, they will attempt to help you negotiate a custody plan (called plan o zajedničkoj roditeljskoj skrbi in Croatian).
The custody plan should include with whom the child(ren) will live, who gets visitation, how you will co-parent, how you will communicate, and the amount of child support. Child support is always included in the final court verdict on divorce. It is calculated according to the chart of basic needs based on the age of a child while keeping in mind individual circumstances.
The agreements at this stage are not binding and can be changed at any time before the final court verdict.
The purpose of this appointment is family mediation. The caseworker is trying to determine if the differences that have led to the initiation of this process cannot be resolved. It is a formality and part of the procedure.
If there is any hint of domestic violence (physical, emotional, financial, or otherwise), then this appointment will not occur.
Step #2 Social Services prepares a report
This report gives a biography of the family, including dynamics, circumstances of the divorce and living situations, whether you’ve come to an agreement, and the attitude of the parents. This report is valid for 6 months.
Step #3 Issuing process before the court
Divorce is handled by the 1st-degree municipal court (called općinski sud in Croatian).
The list of all municipal courts in Croatia is available here. To view their contact information, click on “Municipal Courts” and pick a court.
There are two options for divorce:
- Request for divorce
A request for divorce applies when both spouses give consent. If one spouse doesn’t agree, is hostile, or is missing, then the other spouse must sue for divorce.
Regardless of the option for divorce, a hearing must be held. Divorce procedures are always marked as an urgent priority. However, you could still wait 6 months or more for that hearing.
Children do not attend court proceedings. The parents do not need to attend court appointments except for the hearing as long as they have a lawyer representing them. However, you have the right to be at every court appointment.
Given that there are no binding agreements at this stage, these delays can cause problems – especially in hostile situations. In cases like this, you may ask the judge at any time to give a temporary decision that will last until the final verdict. This temporary decision or regulation is called privremena mjera.
The court will focus on what is best for the child. They would usually allow the child to go with the mother. However, the latest trend is splitting between parents. The court decides for a child to stay 7 days with one parent and 7 days with the other. The societal mentality changes, and fathers become more engaged in their children’s lives.
Croatia has been a member of the UN Convention on the Rights of Child since 1991. The rights of children in Croatia are protected under this convention in addition to other laws. This convention is available here.
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
Generalna skupština Ujedinjenih naroda (United Nations General Assembly) adopted the Konvencija o pravima djeteta (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child - UNCRC) on November 20, 1989. This international document recognizes the rights of children throughout the world.
The Convention is the first document in which the child is approached as a subject with rights and not only as a person who needs special protection. Croatia has been a signed member of the Convention since October 8, 1991, when it became a republic. The Convention has 140 signatories and 196 parties.
There will be an emphasis on quality time with each parent. Child support will be calculated by measuring all income, possessions, debts, and obligations of the person who is not living with the child, and of course, based on the needs of the child.
If the divorce is amicable, then it can be resolved in one hearing. Skip to Step #6.
Step #4 Evaluation and guardians
If the divorce is not amicable, then two steps are added.
Social Services will perform an evaluation which includes a psychologist and psychiatrist. These professionals will speak with the parents and the children.
If the child is a teenager, then most likely, they will allow them to choose the parent they wish to live with. For young children, the professionals may perform the evaluation through talking. For very young children, they may use games or toys to communicate.
The judge will assign a legal guardian for each child from the special department for family custody under the direction of the Ministry of Labor, Pension System, Family, and Social Policy.
This guardian will represent the child and look after their interests by:
- Having conversations with the child
- Explaining what is going on to the child
- Ensuring parents are not manipulating the child
These guardians finished law school but are not bar-certified lawyers. They give their own evaluation on the parents and the overall situation.
The court sides with Social Services 99% of the time. Don’t bicker or be petty, or else Social Services will turn against you. Even if your spouse is hostile, the more dignified you are in focusing only on your child (and not badmouthing your ex-partner), the more likely Social Services will be to find in your favor. Only speak in factual terms, do not bring your emotions into it. Focus on your child and their best interest. Stay as calm as possible and keep it factual.
Step #5 Hearing
Spouses will each make statements before the court. Hostile parents often drag out the process by postponing, not showing up or making constant objections.
The court system is heavily regulated, which means everything must go by the law and procedure. This means it can be easy to delay, resulting in 6 months between hearings and potentially dragging out the process for years.
Once the hearing has been held, and there are no other submissions or claims, the court will issue its final decision.
This final verdict will conclude:
- That the marriage has ended
- Who will the child live with
- Child support
- Potential alimony
Alimony is granted in rare cases. It can be requested at any time before the final verdict.
For alimony to be granted, there must be a huge gap in income between spouses. A good real-life example would be a housewife and a sailor – one has no income, one does.
Alimony is only granted for one year and, in extreme cases, can be prolonged for an additional year – usually when one spouse is disabled.
Marital property is not addressed as part of the divorce proceedings. We will have a future post on the ins and outs of marital property.
While there is nuance and a lot more detail to share, we can give you a headline. Property acquired during the marriage is split 50/50. Property acquired prior to marriage or after separation is not considered marital property. Keep in mind the difference between separation and divorce.
If you are getting divorced in Croatia, let us introduce you to one of our vetted Croatian family lawyers who can help. We have an extensive network around Croatia – all of whom speak excellent English and are experienced with helping foreigners. You can view our expat-vetted lawyer network here.
Divorce is challenging, no matter the situation, and it can be made harder when you do not have an advocate on your side. If you’d like some help, please tell us a bit about you and your situation in the form below so we can match you with the right professional. The first step is to have a free chat so you can meet them and they can learn more about your case. Then they will let you know how they can assist.
In addition to knowledge about the law, everyone we work with is kind and compassionate, which there can be far too little of these days. You’ll be in great hands, no matter what.
View our other partnership posts
- All types of marital unions and partnerships in Croatia
- How non-EU/EEA family members of EU/EEA nationals can get temporary residence
- How non-EU spouses of Croatians can apply for residence
- How to adopt a child and adoption by foreigners
- How to apply for temporary residence in Croatia based on family reunification
- How to attend a Croatian wedding
- How to get divorced in Croatia (without kids)
- How to get married in Croatia
- How to get married in Croatia if at least one spouse is a foreigner
- How to obtain a life partnership for same-sex couples in Croatia
- How to register a marriage or divorce in Croatia
Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.