Croatian and foreign citizens can choose between four legal types of unions in Croatia: marriage, common-law union, life partnership, and informal life partnership. Each has specific rules you should be familiar with before entering.
We’ve scrutinized all forms of unions in Croatia and put the basics in this article to let you know what to expect. For each “community”, we included the definition according to the law, partners’ rights, and your rights as a foreigner when entering a union in Croatia.
In this post, we cover:
- Common-law union
- Life partnership
- Informal life partnership
- How to get help with paperwork or wedding planning
The facts are these…
All types of marital unions and partnerships in Croatia (along with their rights and privileges)
What is a marriage
According to the law, marriage is a legally regulated union between a woman and a man concluded by their consent statement in front of the official.
Marriage in Croatia is regulated by the Family Law called Obiteljski zakon, which is available here.
Marriage is called brak (marriage) or bračna zajednica (marital union) in Croatian. Spouses are called supružnici or supružnik in the singular. The bride is called mlada or nevjesta, and the groom is called mladoženja or ženik.
This law regulates marriage, a common-law union between a man and a woman, relations between parents and children, measures to protect the rights and well-being of children, adoption, custody, support, mandatory counseling and family mediation, and procedures related to family relations and custody.
Marriage can be registered in 2 forms:
- Civil form – Concluded by a registrar
- Religious form (with the effects of civil marriage) – Concluded by an official of the religious community
A person must be 18 years old and have a business capacity to enter a marriage. Exceptionally, people aged 16 can enter a marriage with special permission from the Croatian court.
The following groups cannot enter a marriage:
- People younger than 18
- People completely deprived of business capacity or incapable of reasoning
- Blood relatives
- People who are already married
- People who are in a life partnership
Foreigners can also get married in Croatia if they meet all the requirements.
A marriage between Croatian citizens and non-EU/EEA (third country) citizens concluded and registered according to the third country’s regulations is equal in terms of rights, obligations, and position of Croatian law and rules governing the position of foreigners in Croatia.
A marriage between non-EU/EEA (third-country) citizens who legally reside in Croatia, concluded and registered according to the third country’s regulations is equated in position with the marital unions of non-EU/EEA citizens.
Civil form of marriage
The intention to enter a civil marriage must be reported in person to the registrar’s office according to the location of the wedding. Based on the data that the groom and the bride provide, the registrar will check whether they do or do not meet the requirements to get married.
The registrar determines the day of the marriage in agreement with the bride and groom. The wedding usually takes place 30-40 days after the application. The wedding can take place before this period due to justified reasons, but no later than on the 90th day from the application.
The marriage is usually registered solemnly on the official premises. If you want to get married in your dream location outside the registrar’s office, you have to pay an additional fee.
[Read: How to get married in Croatia]
Religious form of marriage
Marriage in a religious form is concluded before an official of a religious community that has regulated legal relations with Croatia. It is usually done in a Catholic crkva (church) before the svećenik (priest).
Before the wedding, the couple must visit the registrar according to the location of the wedding (church or another place). They must obtain potvrda za sklapanje braka u vjerskom obliku (a certificate for getting married in religious form). This certificate serves as a proof of fulfillment of the preconditions for getting marriage. The couple must provide it to the priest (or other religious official).
The certificate is valid for 3 months from the date of issue. Marriage concluded on the basis of an invalid or expired certificate does not have the legal effects of a civil form of marriage.
At the wedding, the married couple, witnesses, and the official will sign a document that proves the marriage is concluded. The official must deliver this document to the registrar according to the location of the wedding.
Religious marriages shall have all the effects of civil marriages prescribed from the day of conclusion.
[Read: How to attend a Croatian wedding]
Both spouses are equal in marriage. They are obliged to be faithful to each other, to help, support, and respect each other, and to maintain harmonious marital and family relationships.
Spouses must agree on the birth and upbringing of children and performing work in the family union. They decide about their place of residence and family house or apartment in which they will live together with children.
When discussing work, each spouse independently decides on their work and occupation choice.
Spouses can have marital property and personal property. Marital property is acquired through the work during their marriage, or it originates from this property. Both spouses are co-owners of marital property in equal parts unless they agreed otherwise.
Spouses may enter into bračni ugovor (marriage contract) regulating property relations on existing or future property. Spouses’ signatures in the marriage contract must be notarized.
[Read: How to get something notarized]
What is a common-law union
A common-law union is a union between an unmarried woman and an unmarried man that lasts at least 3 years. Relationships that last for less than 3 years may also be considered common-law unions if a child is born during the relationship or if the relationship is continued by marriage.
A common-law union is defined by the Family Law called Obiteljski zakon. It is available here. A common-law union is called izvanbračna zajednica in Croatian. A common-law partner is called izvanbračni partner.
A common-law union has the same personal and property effects as marriage. All the legal provisions on the rights and obligations of spouses, the rights and obligations of parents and children, custody obligations, and property and other relations are also applied to the common-law union.
Children born in a common-law union
The paternity of children born in a common-law partnership is registered in the book of births by acknowledgment or determination of paternity. The paternity can be recognized before the registrar, the center for social welfare, the court, and the Croatian diplomatic mission or consular office abroad – a list is available here).
If the common-law union seizes to exist, the proceeding on parental care can be initiated at the court. It can be done through a lawsuit of one parent or a joint proposal of both parents. Parents are obliged to participate in the counseling procedure by the center for social welfare before the proposal. Parents who never lived together can also initiate this proceeding the same way.
If parents never lived in a common-law union, one parent is obliged to support another parent who takes care of the child if they do not have enough money to support themselves. They must support them for one year after their child is born. If the mother does not have enough means during the pregnancy, the child’s father is also obliged to support her.
Marital and common-law unions are equal by law. This means that the rights mentioned in the section on the rights of spouses also apply to common-law partners.
What is a life partnership
According to the law, a life partnership is a community of family life of two people of the same sex concluded before a competent body – the registrar. Life partnership in Croatia is regulated by the Zakon o životnom partnerstvu osoba istog spola (Law on Life Partnership of Persons of the Same Sex). It is available here.
A life partnership is called životno partnerstvo in Croatian. A life partner is called životni partner.
A person can enter a life partnership if they are 18 or older. A person deprived of legal capacity to make statements relating to strictly personal conditions can enter a life partnership with their guardian’s approval.
The following groups cannot enter a life partnership:
- People younger than 18
- People incapable of reasoning
- Blood relatives in a straight line and collateral line up to 4th degree
- People who are already married
- People who are in a life partnership
A life partnership has legal effects if:
- People entering a life partnership are of the same sex
- People have declared their consent to enter a life partnership
- Life partnership is concluded before the registrar
The intention to enter a life partnership must be reported to the registrar according to the place of the planned life partnership ceremony. The registrar will check if the couple meets all the required preconditions for entering a life partnership. If the court decision is required, the registrar will let you know how to obtain it.
The ceremony will happen in a period of 30-45 days after the report to the registrar. A life partnership is concluded in the presence of the same-sex couple who is entering the life partnership, two witnesses, and the registrar.
After the same-sex couple declares their consent to enter into a life partnership, a life partnership is concluded. The registrar will enter a life partnership into the life partnership records called registar životnog partnerstva. They will also deliver a notice of registered life partnership to the registrar’s office which manages life partners’ matica rođenih (book of births).
Life partnership of foreign citizens
Foreign citizens can also conclude a life partnership in Croatia. They must meet the same conditions as Croatian citizens to enter a life partnership.
A life partnership between Croatian citizens and non-EU/EEA (third country) citizens concluded and registered according to the third country’s regulations is equal in terms of rights, obligations, and position of Croatian law and rules governing the position of foreigners in Croatia.
A life partnership between non-EU/EEA (third-country) citizens who legally reside in Croatia, concluded and registered according to the third country’s regulations is equated in position with the marital unions of non-EU/EEA citizens.
Rights of life partners
Both life partners shall agree on all important issues of their life together by agreement. They have the right to protection of the privacy of their family life and mutual communion. They must help each other and care about each other in case of illness.
Life partners have the same procedural rights and status in all judicial and administrative proceedings as spouses. They may also agree on their surnames when entering a life partnership.
Life partners also have the right to apply for temporary residence in Croatia based on family reunification.
Custody is also a duty and right of life partners and their children. The custody of life partners is regulated by the exact provisions of the law valid for the custody of spouses. The custody between children and guardian parents is regulated the same way as the custody between parents and children. The custody between children and life partner parent is regulated the same way as the custody between stepmother or stepfather and their stepchildren.
The life partner of the child’s parent has the right to parental care of the child with parents or instead of the parents based on a court decision. This is regulated by provisions of a special law governing family relations.
When talking about inheritance, life partners are equated with spouses, and children under their custody are equated with their children.
Family members who live with life partners are exempt from inheritance and gift tax once a life partner passes away. They may also be exempt from paying special tax for acquiring used motor vehicles. Income from the alienation of real estate related to the termination of a life partnership and the inheritance of real estate and property rights may also be exempt from taxation.
Custody of life partners, children, and ex life partners is considered a personal deduction from income tax. Real estate properties gained based on the agreement on lifetime custody are also exempt from taxation.
Life partners and their children have the right to monetary compensation for non-property damage in case of death or severe disability of a close person. This compensation is non-taxable.
Life partners who live together, do not have sufficient funds to support themselves, and are not able to achieve them any other way have the right to help from the social welfare system.
Life partnership of Croatian citizens can acquire Croatian citizenship under the same conditions as people married to Croatian citizens.
What is an informal life partnership
An informal life partnership is a family life community of two persons of the same sex who have not entered a life partnership before the competent body. Their community must last at least three years and meet the preconditions for the validity of the life partnership to be recognized.
An informal life partnership is called neformalno životno partnerstvo in Croatian. An informal life partner is called neformalni životni partner.
An informal life partnership is proven under the same conditions as a common-law union.
The existence of an informal life partnership must be proven before the court in case of a dispute between the partners.
Rights of informal life partners
An informal life partnership is equated to the common-law union when talking about inheritance, tax system, pension insurance, social welfare system, compulsory health insurance and health care, rights and obligations from labor relations, access to public and market services, and public law.
Informal life partners have the right to apply for temporary residence in Croatia based on family reunification. [Read: How to apply for temporary residence in Croatia based on family reunification]
Organizing the paperwork or wedding ceremony in Croatia is tedious, whether you live in Croatia or are planning a destination wedding. As we’ve explained above, the necessary paperwork can vary depending on your nationalities and the location in Croatia where you wish to marry.
If you just can’t be bothered, then let us handle it. Our local assistance team will find out exactly what you need to provide, help you obtain documents within Croatia and submit the request for your wedding date.
If you’d like further help coordinating your ceremony, we can do that too. Our team has loads of connections and local knowledge to make your day all you hope it can be. We can even connect you with officiants.
To get assistant with your nuptials, complete the form below so we can learn a bit more about you. Then, we’ll contact you directly with next steps.
View our other partnership posts
- How non-EU/EEA family members of EU/EEA nationals can get temporary residence in Croatia
- 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 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
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.