How to obtain a life partnership for same-sex couples in Croatia: Guide for 2024

Pride flags in Zagreb, Croatia
Pride flags in Zagreb, Croatia

UPDATED: 2.6.2023.

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.

When the Croatian government refers to “life partners”, they refer only to same-sex couples with a legal union or partnership registration. While Croatia recognizes common law relationships for the purposes of residence, they do not with regards to citizenship.

This guide on same-sex partnership is for everyone wanting to enter a life partnership in Croatia or wanting to learn more about it. Foreign nationals can enter a life partnership under the same conditions as Croatian nationals.

If you want to get married in Croatia, view this guide. If you want to register a marriage or divorce, visit this guide.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

How to obtain a life partnership for same-sex couples in Croatia

What is a life partnership in Croatia?

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 life partnership of persons of the same sex was passed in Croatia on August 6, 2014. It is called Zakon o životnom partnerstvu osoba istoga spola 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 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.

[Read: Rights of the LGBTQIA+ community in Croatia]

If you are a foreign citizen, you can enter a life partnership in Croatia under the same conditions as Croatian citizens. Having Croatian residence or Croatian citizenship is not required 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 (third-country) citizens 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]

Requirements for entering a life partnership in Croatia

Formation of a life partnership may be granted:

  • To people of the same sex older than 18
  • If people declare their consent to enter into a life partnership
  • If a ceremony has been performed in front of the registrar

People deprived of the legal capacity to make statements relating to strictly personal conditions can enter a life partnership with their guardian’s approval.

Formation of a life partnership can’t be granted to:

  • People younger than 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
  • Their witnesses – one legally-capable adult per spouse
  • Changes to their last name, if any

How to form a life partnership in Croatia

#1 Choose the day

The very first step for you and your partner is choosing the exact date and time of your future ceremony. A ceremony can be held in a registrar’s office or outside the office, for example, in nature.

If you pick up an outdoor location or a time outside the registrar’s working hours, be ready to pay for an additional cost.

You will be charged by:

  • Distance from the registrar – per kilometer
  • Day of the week – higher fee on Sunday
  • Hours of the day – higher fee after working hours

#2 Prepare the documentation

Below are lists of required documentation depending on whether you are a Croatian or foreign citizen. 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 and their contact information is available here. It is organized by Croatian counties.

Croatian citizens

If you are a Croatian citizen, you must enclose a document proving your identity, such as an ID card or a passport.

View a guide on how to apply for a Croatian ID card here and a passport here.

If you are a Croatian national born outside of Croatia and 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 citizens

Foreign citizens 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

[Read: Available visas and residence permits for Croatia]

Birth certificates and certificates proving you’re not in a life partnership or marriage must be apostilled/legalized and officially translated into Croatian.

You can learn how to prepare your foreign documents for use in Croatia in this guide.

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 proving a person is not in a life partnership or marriage.

Countries that are members of the Vijeće Europe (Council of 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 ceremony date.

[Read: How to register or change your address with the Croatian police]

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 ceremony date, 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 is available here.

Choosing 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 must 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. Now is the right time to inform the registrar about the changes, if any.

You must also pay the administrative costs listed below.

Administrative fees

Administrative fees for a life partnership include:

  • Life partnership agreement – 9,29 euros
  • Act of establishing a life partnership before the registrar – 18,58 euros
  • 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 – 20% of the base
    • 16:00 – 19:59 – 30% of the base
    • 20:00 – 22:00 – 50% of the base
  • Distance from the registrar – fee is charged per kilometer
    • Up to 10 kilometers – 10% of the base
    • More than 10 kilometers – 1% per kilometer, but not higher than 30% of the base

Fees can be paid via:

  • Tax stamps at the registrar’s office – view a guide here
  • 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 adults
    • 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 must confirm their new life partnership by signing the official consent statement. Witnesses and the registrar will also sign it. 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 it up at the registrar’s office or online via the e-Građani application.

[Read: e-Građani (e-Citizens) – Online portal for Croatian government services]

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, if you are prevented, someone else can do it instead of you. We can introduce you to a vetted lawyer if you contact us. They’ll help you with the legalization procedure.

View this guide to learn about the process of full legalization of documents.

Some countries require verification from their Ministry of Internal Affairs or equivalent institutions. This means you may have to additionally verify the document in your home country.

A list of countries that require the full legalization process is available here. A list of countries that don’t require full legalization is available here.

Partnerships created outside Croatia

If a same-sex union is registered outside Croatia, the couple may register it 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.

Article 75 of the Law on same-sex life partnership says:

(1) Životno partnerstvo, odnosno brak osoba istog spola između hrvatskih državljana i državljana država koje nisu članice Europskog gospodarskog prostora, sklopljeno i registrirano u skladu s propisima države koja nije članica Europskog gospodarskog prostora, izjednačeno je glede prava, obveza i položaja sa životnim partnerstvima sklopljenim sukladno odredbama ovoga Zakona i posebnih propisa kojima se uređuje položaj stranaca u Republici Hrvatskoj.

(2) Životno partnerstvo odnosno brak osoba istog spola između državljana država koje nisu članice Europskog gospodarskog prostora, sklopljeno i registrirano u skladu s propisima države koja nije članica Europskog gospodarskog prostora, a koji legalno borave na području Republike Hrvatske, izjednačeno je u položaju s bračnim zajednicama državljana država koje nisu članice Europskog gospodarskog prostora.

(3) Kada se radi o pravima i obvezama koja ne ulaze u opseg članka 74. stavka 1. ovoga Zakona, odredba iz stavka 1. ovoga članka primjenjuje se na životno partnerstvo odnosno brak osoba istog spola, sklopljen između državljana države članice Europskog gospodarskog prostora u državi članici, uključujući i one u kojima jedna od osoba ima državljanstvo države izvan Europskog gospodarskog prostora.

Which translates as:

(1) A life partnership, i.e. a marriage of persons of the same sex between Croatian citizens and citizens of countries that are not members of the European Economic Area, concluded and registered in accordance with the regulations of a country that is not a member of the European Economic Area, is equal in rights, obligations and position with life partnerships concluded in accordance with the provisions of this Act and special regulations governing the position of aliens in the Republic of Croatia.

(2) A life partnership or marriage of persons of the same sex between citizens of countries that are not members of the European Economic Area, concluded and registered in accordance with the regulations of a country that is not a member of the European Economic Area, who legally reside in the Republic of Croatia is equal in position with the marital unions of citizens of countries that are not members of the European Economic Area.

(3) In the case of rights and obligations not falling within the scope of Article 74, paragraph 1 of this Act, the provision referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article shall apply to a life partnership or marriage of persons of the same sex concluded between citizens of a Member State of the European Economic Area in a Member State, including those in which one of the persons has the nationality of a country outside the European Economic Area.

[Read: How to register a marriage or divorce in Croatia]

What is an informal life partnership in Croatia?

The same law regulating life partnership also regulates the rights and relations of informal life partnership called neformalno životno partnerstvo, also known as common law.

Article 3 of the law stipulates that an 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. They mustn’t live in another informal union or informal life partnership.

This is similar to the stipulations valid for a common-law union of people of the opposite sex, which is recognized as equal to marriage in Croatia. If they want certain rights from the Law of same-sex life partnership, same-sex partners can confirm their informal life partnership with the notary public. This means that the notary will make a statement that will prove 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, 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.

Rights of life partners and adoption in Croatia

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, some things are still different in 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 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 April 2021, a historical decision was brought by Upravni sud u Zagrebu (Administrative Court in Zagreb). In May 2022, the same decision was brought by Visoki upravni sud Republike Hrvatske (High Administrative Court of the Republic of Croatia). 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 6 years. 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 Centar za socijalnu skrb (Center for Social Welfare) and apply for an adoption evaluation. We will keep you posted.

[Read: How to adopt a child and adoption by foreigners]

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 a citizen of Serbia to petition for a temporary stay in Croatia, which he was successfully granted.

[Read: How non-EU/EEA spouses of Croatians can apply for residence]

Get help with paperwork or planning your ceremony

Preparing to enter into a life partnership 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, and quite frankly, to complicate things more, the requirements can differ between registrar offices.

Let us eliminate the stress right from the start! Our wedding expert can cover all of the important aspects of tying the knot in Croatia.

What is the cost?

The cost for this consultation and guidance service is 150 euro VAT included (25% tax mandated by the Croatian government).

What is included?

A 30-minute consulting call with our wedding (and bureaucracy) expert, who will give you advice based on your specific situation and needs to help you navigate your Croatian nuptials.

An additional 30 minutes of our personal research service to provide further information on whichever point you decide to be of utmost importance. It could be about the destination, the venue, the photographer, attire… We will put together a list of vendors specifically for you. You won’t get a Google listing from us – we will call and vet each referral personally before they get added to your list.

As an added bonus, you will also receive a customized Croatian wedding checklist covering all the wedding & bureaucratic “must dos” before you can say “I do”.

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View our other partnership posts


Sources:
Sklapanje životnog partnerstva
Životno partnerstvo
Što je životno partnerstvo? by Životno partnerstvo
Povijesni trenutak: lezbijski i gej parovi u Hrvatskoj mogu pristupiti procjeni da postanu posvojitelji

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.

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