In Croatia, same-sex couples do not have the right to marriage by law. However, they can enter into a life partnership which is a legally approved union between two people of the same sex.
Foreign nationals can enter into a life partnership in Croatia under the same conditions as Croatian nationals.
In this post, we cover:
- What is a life partnership
- Requirements for concluding a life partnership
- How to form a life partnership in Croatia
- Partnerships created outside Croatia
- What is an informal life partnership
- Rights of life partnerships and adoption
The facts are these…
Same-sex partners cannot get legally married in Croatia. According to Croatian laws, only heterosexual couples can get married in Croatia.
However, there is another type of union that same-sex couples can enter legally in Croatia. It is officially called “životno partnerstvo”, which means life partnership.
The Law of Same-Sex Life Partnership was passed in Croatia on August 6, 2014. It is called “Zakon o životnom partnerstvu” and is available here. 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.
Life partnership can be registered at any matični ured (registrar’s office) in Croatia by a person called “matičar” (registrar). Life partnership cannot be registered in a Croatian embassy or consular mission outside of Croatia. A registrar doesn’t have the right to refuse the request for a conclusion of life partnership if you meet all the requirements. Otherwise, this is considered discrimination.
If you are a foreign national, you can enter a life partnership in Croatia under the same conditions as Croatian nationals. It is not required to have Croatian residence or Croatian nationality to enter a life partnership in Croatia. In this case, you will only have to enclose additional documents.
People who enter a life partnership in Croatia have granted rights on the territory of the EU/EEA according to the Law of Same-Sex Life Partnership, regardless of how an individual country regulates same-sex relationships.
Non-EU/EEA citizens (third-country nationals) can request residence in Croatia under the same rules and regulations as opposite-sex couples if they form a life partnership with a Croatian citizen. [Read: How non-EU/EEA spouses of Croatians can apply for residence]
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
Persons who are deprived of the legal capacity to make statements relating to strictly personal conditions can enter a life partnership with the approval of their guardian.
Formation of a life partnership can’t be granted to:
- People under the age of 18
- People incapable of reasoning
- Blood relatives in the direct line, and in the lateral line up to the 4th degree
- People who are already in a life partnership or married
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 (One per spouse, who is a legally-capable adult)
- Changes to their last name, if any
#1 Choose the time and date
The very first step for you and your partner is choosing the exact date and time of your future ceremony. You can enter a life partnership within a registrar’s office or somewhere outside of the office.
If you pick up an outdoor location or a time that is outside of the registrar’s working hours, be ready to pay for an additional cost.
You will be charged by:
- Distance from the registrar – Fee is charged per kilometer
- Day of the week – Fee is higher on Sunday
- Hours of the day – Fee is higher after working hours
#2 Prepare the documentation
Below are lists of required documentation depending on whether you are a Croatian or foreign national. However, a registrar may ask for other documents depending on an individual case and location. It is recommended to call them in advance to confirm requirements.
A list of all registrar offices in Croatia including their contact information, organized by Croatian counties, is available here.
If you are a Croatian national, you are required to enclose a document that proves your identity such as an ID card or a passport.
If you are a Croatian national born outside of Croatia and you are not yet registered in the Croatian Book of births called “Matica rođenih”, you must do that first. [Read: How to register a person in the Book of births]
Foreign nationals must enclose:
- ID card or passport
- Proof of citizenship
- Birth certificate issued in the country of their birth
- Certificate proving they are not in a life partnership or marriage issued in the country of their residence such as a “Certificate of Free Marital Status”
- Proof of residence, if you have a Croatian residence
Birth certificates and certificates proving you’re not in a life partnership or marriage must be apostilled/legalized then officially translated into Croatian. [Read: How to prepare your foreign documents for use in Croatia]
Certain countries that do not recognize any form of same-sex family union may offer bureaucratic resistance when issuing the necessary documentation. This may happen when issuing a certificate that proves that a person is not in a life partnership or marriage, i.e. certificate of free marital status.
Countries that are members of the Council of Europe (Vijeće Europe) are required to issue this certificate to members of the LGBTQIA+ community. [Read: LGBTQIA+ Web sites and Facebook communities]
#3 Notify the registrar
The next step is to visit the registrar’s office. It is common to get married in a registrar’s office closest to your Croatian residency or where your ceremony will take place, but you can go to any office. You have to visit the registrar 30-45 days before the date of the ceremony.
At the registrar, you will declare your intention to be joined as partners and fill out the application form. At that time, the registrar will inform you if there are any impediments to the desired date of the ceremony, location, or last name. Both you and your future spouse must be present. You will also have to choose your future surname.
Usually, the ceremony cannot take place less than 30 days after making this declaration, but exceptions may be granted in special circumstances. If you desire a different location for the ceremony, it can be arranged but it will cost extra for the officiant to travel from the registrar’s office.
A list of all registrar offices in Croatia, organized by Croatian counties, is available here.
Choosing a surname
When choosing a surname, partners may agree that:
- Every partner will keep their surname
- They will take the surname of one partner as their common surname
- They will take both surnames and decide which one will be used in the first place and which one in the second place
- Each of them will take the surname of their partner in addition to their surname and decide which one will be used in the first place and which one in the second place
#4 Confirm your intention
You have to reconfirm your intention with the registrar 3 days before the ceremony. Visit the office in person together with your partner.
If at least one spouse is a foreign national, you will need to have a court translator accompany you to the registrar as well as be present for your ceremony. An option without a translator is possible for nationals of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro.
The registrar will print out the intention to conclude a life partnership and you will sign it. If there were any changes, now is the right time to inform the registrar.
You will also have to pay the administrative costs that are listed below.
Administrative fees for a life partnership include:
- Life partnership agreement – 70 kuna
- Act of establishing a life partnership before the registrar – 140 kuna
- Travel fee if the ceremony will take place outside of the registrar’s office
Travel fee pricing rules
- Day of the week – On Saturday, Sunday, holidays, and non-working days, the fee increases by 100%
- Hours of the day – Fee is higher in the late afternoon and evening
- 8:00 – 15:59 – Fee is 20% of the base
- 16:00 – 19:59 – Fee is 30% of the base
- 20:00 – 22:00 – Fee is 50% of the base
- Distance from the registrar – Fee is charged per kilometer
- If the location is up to 10 kilometers away from the registrar’s office – Fee is 10% of the base
- If the location is more than 10 kilometers away from the registrar’s office – Fee is 1% per kilometer, but not higher than 30% of the base
Fees can be paid via:
- Tax stamps – At the registrar’s office
- Uplatnica at a bank or postal office – Return to the registrar after payment to provide proof of payment
[Read: How to pay bills in Croatia]
#5 Life partnership ceremony
On the day of the ceremony, you must have:
- 1 witness per spouse and a copy of their passport
- Witnesses must be business-capable adult persons.
- Passport copies do not need to be notarized.
- Court translator
The life partnership ceremony usually lasts 15 minutes. During the ceremony, the registrar will introduce you to the provisions of the law, your rights, and your duties.
At the end of the ceremony, both spouses have to confirm their new life partnership by signing the official statement of consent. Their witnesses and the registrar will also sign this statement. The registrar will enter a life partnership into the Croatian Registry of Life Partnerships called “Registar životnog partnerstva”.
The ceremony ends after the registrar, court translator, and other guests congratulate the couple.
#6 Pick up your documents
As proof of your life partnership, you can request a certificate called “Potvrda o životnom partnerstvu” (Life partnership certificate). You can pick this up at the registrar’s office or online via e-Građani application.
However, you may need to get more paperwork if:
- You want a life partnership certificate in a different language
- Your country does not have a treaty in place with Croatia
You want a life partnership certificate in a different language
It is possible to get a life partnership certificate in your native language in some countries. In this case, a certificate in a foreign language must be fully legalized.
Your country does not have a treaty in place with Croatia
If your home country doesn’t have a treaty with Croatia, your Croatian life partnership won’t be recognized in your home country without additional paperwork. In this case, a life partnership must be “fully legalized” to be officially recognized.
This verification is a separate process that you must go through in person. However, someone else can do it instead of you if you are prevented. We can introduce you to a vetted lawyer if you contact us and they’ll help you with the legalization procedure.
The full legalization procedure of a life partnership is described below.
Step 1 – Translate a life partnership certificate
The life partnership certificate must be translated into the native language by a “sudski tumač” (court translator) in Croatia. If you need a recommendation, feel free to contact us and we will introduce you to one.
Step 2 – Verify the certificate at court
Take your officially translated life partnership certificate to the competent municipal court according to the location of the institution that issued your certificate. The court will then verify your certificate.
A list of all municipal courts in Croatia is available here.
Step 3 – Verify the certificate at the Ministry of Justice in Zagreb
The next step is to verify your life partnership certificate at the Ministarstvo pravosuđa in Zagreb. They must verify the signature of the municipal judge and the stamp. The administrative cost is 30 kuna.
Ministry of Justice
Ulica grada Vukovara 49
10 000 Zagreb (view map)
- Monday to Thursday – 9:00 to 11:00, 13:00 to 15:00
- Friday – 9:00 to 12:00
Step 4 – Verify the certificate at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Another verification is required from the Ministarstvo vanjskih i europskih poslova in Zagreb. They verify the signature of the official persons and the stamp from the Ministarstvo pravosuđa. Bring a copy of the certificate and an ID card (if you are an EU citizen) or a passport.
Go to the department Uprava za konzularne poslove / Sektor za međunarodnu pravnu pomoć, državljanstvo i putne isprave / Služba za međunarodnu pravnu pomoć.
The administrative cost is 55 kuna. It is possible to pay this cost with tax stamps. [Read: What is a tax stamp and why do you need them]
Fees higher than 100 kuna are paid directly to the bank account of the State Budget of the Republic of Croatia.
Državni proračun Republike Hrvatske
Model number 64
Reference number: 5002-721-[Insert your OIB]
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Petretićev trg 2
10 000 Zagreb (view map)
[Read: How to pay bills in Croatia]
Step 5 – Verify the certificate at the nearest embassy
The last thing you must do is to go to the foreign diplomatic mission in Croatia for the country where you wish to use a life partnership certificate. You can go to the closest one to Croatia if your country doesn’t have a diplomatic mission in Croatia.
Step 6 – Additional verification in your home country (if needed)
Some countries require verification from their Ministry of Internal Affairs or equivalent institution.
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.
The same law regulating life partnership also regulates the rights and relations of informal life partnership (neformalno životno partnerstvo), 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 3 years. These two persons mustn’t live in another informal union or informal life partnership.
This is similar to the stipulations valid for a common-law union of persons of the opposite sex, which in Croatia is recognized as equal to a marriage. If they want to get certain rights from the Law of Same-Sex Life Partnership, same-sex partners can confirm their informal life partnership at the notary public. This means that the notary will make a statement that will serve as proof that you and your partner are in an informal life partnership. [Read: How to get something notarized]
Article 4 of the Law of Same-Sex Life Partnerships says:
Neformalno životno partnerstvo u području nasljeđivanja, poreznog sustava, mirovinskog osiguranja, sustava socijalne skrbi, obveznog zdravstvenog osiguranja i zdravstvene zaštite, prava i obveza iz radnih odnosa, pristupa javnim i tržišnim uslugama te javnopravnog položaja stvara iste učinke, koji su posebnim propisima kojima se uređuju ta područja, priznati izvanbračnoj zajednici.
Which translates as:
Informal life partnership in the field of 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 status creates the same effects as special regulations that are recognized to the common law union by special regulations governing these areas.
Informal life partnership is based on equality, and mutual respect, and assistance as well as other family unions. In case of a dispute, an informal life partnership must be proven by a competent court.
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 from reality, although a crucial decision was brought by a Croatian court in May 2021.
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 as 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 a 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 “stepmother” 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.
In May 2021, a historical decision was brought by the Croatian court. Same-sex life partners in Croatia will now be able to adopt children. This decision was based on a case of two same-sex life partners who fought for the right to adopt for the last 5 years (until May 2021). The court decided in their favor.
This historical decision created the opportunity for all same-sex life partners to adopt children without discrimination. To start the adoption process, life partners must contact the closest Center for Social Welfare (Centar za socijalnu skrb) and apply for an adoption evaluation. We will keep you posted.
The first same-sex life partnership was registered in Zagreb between a Croatian and Serbian citizen on September 5, 2014. The formation of this life partnership enabled Ivan, a citizen of Serbia, to petition for a temporary stay in Croatia, which he was successfully granted.
If you’ve entered a life partnership in Croatia or you are in an informal life partnership, please share your experience with us.
View other partnership posts
- How to adopt a child and adoption by foreigners
- 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
- LGBTQIA+ web sites and Facebook communities
- Non-profit LGBTQIA+ organizations in Croatia
Please note: All information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal advice in any form. For legal advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. We can recommend one if you contact us.