If you are a Croatian citizen, you need to register any foreign marriages or divorces with the Croatian registrar, regardless of whether you live in Croatia. By foreign marriages or divorces, we mean they were completed outside of Croatia.
It’s not like you’ll be punished if you do not. However, there are certain bureaucratic procedures that you will not be able to do until your records are up to date in Croatia. Some of them include applying for health insurance as a spouse, applying for residence as the non-EU spouse of Croatian, giving up Croatian nationality, changing your name to your married name, or adopting a child.
Foreign marriage or divorce must be entered into the Croatian Book of Marriages called “Matica vjenčanih”. This is done by a person called the registrar (matičar) in the Croatian registrar’s office (matični ured).
Unlike most bureaucratic processes in Croatia, registering a marriage or divorce is pretty simple. Of course, things can get complicated if you don’t meet the requirements, but that’s why we are here. 🙂
To be clear, this post is for people married outside of Croatia involving at least one Croatian citizen. If you wish to get married, then this is the post for you if one of you is a foreigner, or this post if you’re both Croatians.
In this post, we cover:
- Scenario if you were married in the EU
- Scenario if you are in a same-sex marriage
- What is the Book of Marriages
- How to register a marriage or divorce
- How to get help with a marriage or divorce registration
The facts are these…
If you are a Croatian citizen and were married in another EU Member State, you are not obliged to register a marriage in Croatia. If you respected all the laws of the country where you were married, your marriage will automatically be recognized in all EU Member States.
However, it is recommended to register your marriage in Croatia anyways. If you don’t register your marriage, you won’t be able to pick up your Croatian documents or proceed with certain bureaucratic procedures. For example, if you wish to return to live in Croatia with your new spouse, you’ll need to register your marriage before you new spouse can apply for residence. [Read: How spouses of Croatian citizens can apply for residence]
If you want to get married in another EU Member State as a Croatian citizen, first, you must receive permission from the competent authorities of the country where you’d like to get married. After you receive their permission, you can get married.
When you come back to Croatia, you must obtain all official documents related to your new marital status on the basis of your foreign wedding certificate.
Divorces granted in another EU Member State are automatically recognized in Croatia. You don’t have to go through an additional procedure.
Unlike heterosexual marriage, same-sex marriage is not recognized in all EU Member States. It is currently recognized only in the following countries:
In Croatia, same-sex marriage is not recognized. This means that if you are in a same-sex relationship and you want to get married in Croatia, it is not allowed by the law. Instead of getting married, same-sex couples must enter a life partnership in Croatia. It is a special form of a legal partnership defined by the law. After they enter a life partnership, same-sex couples will be granted all the rights of the life partnership.
If a same-sex union or a same-sex marriage was registered outside of Croatia, the couple may register their union in Croatia. Citizenship is not a prerequisite for having the partnership recognized in Croatia, so it is allowed by law for two people who are not Croatian citizens to have their life partnership or same-sex marriage registered in Croatia. However, it will be registered as a life partnership.
The Book of Marriages is a record of all marriages that took place in Croatia as well as marriages of Croatian citizens concluded abroad. It is called “Matica vjenčanih” in Croatian and is managed at the Registrar’s office. [Read: How to get married in Croatia]
Foreign marriages or divorces are entered into the Croatian Book of Marriages based on an excerpt from a foreign legal institution. You need to provide an original, apostilled/legalized, and translated copy of your foreign marriage certificate to a registrar. It must be translated into the Croatian language by an official translator. [Read: How to prepare your foreign documents for use in Croatia]
If you want to register a foreign divorce, first you must register a marriage. A divorce cannot be registered if your marriage was never registered.
Step #1 Collect the documentation
To make the process smooth, collect all the required documentation for the registration in advance. Below is a list of documents that you must collect before registration.
To register a marriage, you must provide:
- Birth certificate not older than 3 months for foreign spouses
- If the foreign spouse is an EU/EEA national, it doesn’t have to be apostilled/legalized
- If the foreign spouse is a third-country national, apostilled/legalized then officially translated
- Foreign marriage certificate OR certificate on current matrimonial status
- If you were married in an EU/EEA Member State, it doesn’t have to be apostilled/legalized
If you were married outside the EU/EEA, it must be apostilled/legalized then officially translated
To register a divorce in Croatia, you must provide:
- Divorce decree
- If you were divorced in an EU/EEA Member State, it doesn’t have to be apostilled/legalized
- If you were divorced in a non-EU/EEA Member State, it has to be apostilled/legalized, translated and then approved by the Croatian municipal court
- Note: There are some exceptions due to special agreements between countries that require a different procedure.
Step #2 Verify the documentation
Before registration, your foreign documents must be verified by a foreign relevant institution. This means that they must be apostilled/legalized then officially translated into Croatian. [Read: Apostille versus full legalization of government documents]
All foreign legal documents must be prepared for use in Croatia. If they are not prepared properly, they will be rejected by the legal institution. Be sure to take care of this before you proceed with the registration process. It may take a while, but better safe than sorry. [Read: How to prepare your foreign documents for use in Croatia]
Step #3 Register the marriage/divorce
Registration can be done at:
- Registrar’s office according to the address of your stay in Croatia
- A list of all registrar’s offices in Croatia is available here
- Croatian embassy or consular office outside of Croatia
- A list of Croatian embassies and consular offices abroad is available here
Registration of a marriage or divorce must be done in person. Only one spouse must be present. If you are prevented, it can be done by an authorized person, or you can send a written request to the registrar’s office. A lawyer can do this on your behalf in Croatia using a power of attorney. If you’d like an introduction to a vetted one, click here.
If you have Croatian citizenship, but you live outside of Croatia, you must register your marriage according to your last permanent address in Croatia where you have lived with your spouse. If you don’t have it, you should do it according to the last Croatian permanent address of the spouse who applied for the registration of marriage. [Read: Prebivalište and boravište: two addresses that must be registered with the police]
Bring the collected and verified documents with you. The process should be done immediately upon your arrival. The registrar will enter the data into the Croatian Book of Marriages (Matica vjenčanih).
Registration of a divorce is a bit more complicated and lengthy than registering a marriage. The process of registration involves both the court as well as the registrar, and unfortunately, your former spouse will also need to be involved.
For a divorce executed abroad, the court must verify the divorce decree before it can be registered with the registrar. To verify the decree, the court sends a letter to the former spouse on behalf of the spouse who is requesting the divorce registration to get their consent.
They will make two attempts. If after two attempts there is still no response, the request to register the divorce will be posted publicly for 90 days. If there is still no response, the court will proceed with scheduling a hearing on the registration.
If the spouse does respond and gives consent, then the court will proceed with scheduling the hearing. Please note that it can take 6 months or more to get a hearing date. At the hearing, the judge will make a decision on the veracity of the request to register the divorce. If they give approval, then you can take your documents to the registrar to register the divorce.
Here is list of all registrar’s offices in Croatia.
Registration of a divorce must be done in person by at least one spouse, unless you are using a lawyer or authorized person. A lawyer can do this on your behalf in Croatia using a power of attorney. If you’d like an introduction to a vetted one, click here.
The court you must go to is based on jurisdiction – meaning your last registered address. If you live abroad, then you will go to the court in Zagreb. [Read: Prebivalište and boravište: two addresses that must be registered with the police]
Government administrative fees
Registration of a foreign marriage or divorce in Croatia is free of charge.
If you’re living outside Croatia, you may not be able to get to Croatia, embassy or consulate to register your marriage or divorce. In this case, you can authorize a Croatian lawyer to take care of this for you. Having it handled in Croatia will be much faster and more efficient than going through an embassy or consulate.
This is especially beneficial if registering a divorce, given that it involves visits to the Croatian court.
We have a network of expat-vetted lawyers who can help! You can learn more about our network and how we vet our professionals here.
If you’d like an introduction to an English-speaking professional who can assist, let us know by filling out the form below. We’ll get back to you shortly to get you connected.
View posts related to marriages and life partnerships
- Apostille versus full legalization of government documents
- How to attend a Croatian wedding
- How to get married in Croatia (if at least one spouse is a foreigner)
- How to get married in Croatia
- How non-EU spouses of Croatians can apply for residence
- How to prepare your foreign documents for use in Croatia
- Same-sex life partnerships 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.