Same Sex Life Partnerships in Croatia

The law of same sex life partnership was passed in Croatia on August 6, 2014. This law represents the legal basis for registering a union of two people of the same sex that want to form a socially recognized union or a family in Croatia, since traditional marriage is not an option.

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How to Form a Life Partnership

Formation of a life partnership may be granted:

  • To people of the same sex, if they are older than 18
  • When they declare their consent to enter into a life partnership
  • When a ceremony of registration has been performed in front of the Registrar

Similar to forming a civil marriage in Croatia, same sex couples first need to decide on:

  • Approximate time and location of their ceremony
  • Who their witnesses will be
  • Changes to their last name, if any

Next, the couple should visit the Registrar’s Office closest to the registered address of the couple. At the Registrar, the couple will declare their intention to be joined as partners. At that time, the Registar will inform them if there are any impediments to their desired date of ceremony, location or the last name. Both future spouses must be present.

Usually the ceremony cannot take place less than 30 days after making this declaration, but exceptions may be granted in special circumstances. If the couple desires a different location for their ceremony, it can be arranged but it will cost extra for the officiant to travel from the Registrar’s office.

The fees for a life partnership include:

  • An administrative fee of 70 kuna for filing a life partnership agreement
  • An administrative fee of 140 kuna for the act of establishing a life partnership before the Registrar

Foreign Citizens

For Croatian citizens, having an ID is enough to begin the process. For foreign citizens, additional documents are needed including:

  • Identification with photo that shows their identity and citizenship
  • An apostilled original of their birth certificate issued in the country of their birth in accordance with international treaties and conventions and that is notarized and translated into Croatian
  • A certificate of free marital status in accordance with international treaties and conventions and translated into Croatian.

Someone who is not Croatian or EU/EEA/Swiss citizens can request residency in Croatia under same rules and regulations as opposite sex couples if they form a life partnership with a Croatian citizen.

Partnerships Created Outside Croatia

If a same-sex union was registered outside of Croatia, the couple may register their union in Croatia. To do so, contact the Registrar’s Office closest to your registered address and inquire about adding your union to the Croatian Registry of Life Partnerships.

It is allowed by law for two people who are not Croatian citizens to have their life partnership registered in Croatia, as citizenship is not a prerequisite for having the partnership recognized in Croatia.

Informal Life Partnership

The same law regulates the rights and relations of informal life partnership, also known as “common law”. Article 3 of the law stipulates that informal life-partnership is a community of family life of two persons of the same sex, who have not entered into a life partnership before the competent body but have lived in a lasting union for at least three years. This is similar to the stipulations valid for a de-facto marriage of persons of opposite sex, which in Croatia is recognized as equal to a marriage.

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Rights of Life Partnerships and Adoption

A same-sex life partnership offers the same rights as the marital union of persons of different sexes, with the exception of the right to single-parent and joint adoption of children.

The law regarding same-sex partnerships states that Croatia will “create conditions that will make available to the same-sex communities all the instruments they need to jointly successfully build their family lives.” However, this differs with reality.

When one of the spouses has a child or children from a previous relationship, the other spouse can request from the municipal court (in the child’s place of residence) to be appointed a partner-guardian. However, this is only possible when the child or children in question do not already have a legal parent.

For example, if two women have entered into life partnership and one of them has children from her previous marriage, the new spouse may not legally adopt her spouse’s children if the father is living and has not lost his parental rights. The most the new spouse can hope for is to be a “step-mother” to the children.  All the rights and obligations still fall onto the biological parents.

If two women have a child together via an egg donor and the sperm donor has not petitioned for his parental rights, then the mother who did not give birth may petition the municipal court to be appointed a partner-guardian.  The court will ask the corresponding social welfare center for their opinion. If all goes well, the other spouse can be appointed a partner-guardian with the same rights and obligations as someone who legally adopts a child.

Other forms of adoption for same sex couples are not yet legal in Croatia yet.

The first same sex life partnership was registered in Zagreb between a Croatian and a Serbian citizen on September 5, 2014. The formation of this life partnership enabled Ivan, a citizen of Serbia, to petition for temporary stay in Croatia, which he was successfully granted.

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Expat in Croatia

Sara is an American expat based in Split. After globetrotting between New York, Amsterdam and California, she moved to Croatia in 2012. Sara's blog Expat in Croatia is a guide for foreigners living and traveling in Croatia.

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