Croatian family and succession law recognise four types of couples' relationships:
MARRIAGE between persons of different sex
REGISTERED PARTNERSHIP between persons of the same sex
DE FACTO COHABITATION between persons of opposite sex
DE FACTO COHABITING PARTNERSHIP between persons of same sex
The first and third categories are regulated under the Family Act (NN 103/2015), while the secodn and the fourth are regulated under the Same-Sex Life Partnership Act (NN 92 /2014).
Although there are no explicit discriminatory provisions in Croatian family and succession law, some discriminatory effects can be result of possible difficulties in proving the existence of a de facto cohabitation and differnet definitions in different areas of laws.
Links to applicable law
FAMILY AND SUCCESSION: Family Act, NN 103/2015; Same-Sex Life Partnership Act, NN 92/2014, Succession Act, NN 48/2003, NN 163/2003, NN 35/2005, NN 137/2013, OG 33/2015
PRIVATE INTERNATIONAL LAW: Private International Law Act, NN 101/2017
Croatian legal system differentiates between two matrimonial property regimes: community of property and marriage contract.
Community of property is the default regime. Community of property consists of assets which spouses acquire after marriage through their work or derives from these assets, as well as property benefits gained from copyright and games of chance. There is a presumption that spouses own equal shares. The property a spouse owns at the moment of entering into marriage remains his or her personal property, as well as property which a spouse acquires during marriage pursuant to a legal basis different from work, such as inheritance, gifts etc. Spouse’s copyrighted work represents personal property. The spouse may arrange their marital property relations differently by a marriage contract. The marriage contract may define property relations for the existing and future property. The marriage contract has to be concluded in writing and spouses’ signatures have to be verified before the public notary.
Croatian law knows two types of succession: intestate and testate.
If the spouse dies intestate, surviving spouse is an heir of the first order/line. He or she shares the estate with other heirs in the same order/line (children and other descendants) in equal portions. If the deceased has no children, the surviving spouse shares the estate with parents of the deceased, which are heirs of the second order/line. In that case the spouse receives the half, while the parents share the other half (1/4 each). In presence of children, who renounced inheritance, surviving spouse becomes the only heir. He will not share the estate with the parents. The surviving spouse never shares with the other heirs of the second order, such as brothers or sisters.
If the deceased spouse left a will, the will is stronger legal ground than statutory provision in order to exercise the right to success. Nonetheless, the testamentary dispositions are not absolute. The Succession Act protects surviving spouse as an absolute forced heir. He or she has the right to compulsory portion, which is one-half of the value of the portion that he would have inherited in the case of intestate succession.
REGISTERED SAME-SEX PARTNERSHIP
Patrimonial regime of registered same-sex partners is regulated under the Same-Sex Life Partnership Act in the same manner as the Family Act regulates matrimonial property regimes.
Under the Same-Sex Life Partnership Act, succession between registered same sex partners is regulated equally to succession between spouses.
DE FACTO COHABITATION
De facto cohabitation may exist between opposite-sex and same-sex partners, but based on the sexual orientation there exists a difference in definition, hence they are analysed separately. Howver the common problem is the proof of the existence of the de facto unions because they (both opposite and same-sex) are of unformal nature. In some cases, it is very difficult to establish their commencement and end. Proving the existence of the facto union can be even more difficult in probate proceedings because different definitions of the de facto cohabitations are provided in Family Act and Succession Act.
The situation differs in relation to property regimes:
1) De facto cohabitation between persons of opposite sex is a union between unmarried woman and unmarried man, which lasts for at least 3 years or less if they have a child or if they get married. Under Art. 11 of the Family Act, rules on matrimonial property regime apply mutatis mutandis to property regime of the de facto cohabitation between opposite-sex partners.
2) De facto cohabitation between same-sex partners is the union between persons of same sex, which is not registered before the registrar, if the union lasts for at least 3 years and that from the beginning it satisfies the prerequisites prescribed for the registered partnership. The same rules regarding property regimes of registered partners apply to de facto cohabitation between same-sex partners under the Same-Sex Life Partnership Act.
The situation also differs with regard to the succession:
The de facto cohabitant in the opposite-sex partnership has succession rights equalto those of a spouse. However, the definition of the de facto cohabitation in the Succession Act differs from the one in Art. 11 of the Family Act. For the purpose of the succession, Art. 8 of the Succession Act provides an independent definition: de facto cohabitation is a life union between the unmarried woman and unmarried man, which lasts a longer period and which ended with the death of the deceased under the condition that all the prerequisites of the validity of the marriage were fulfilled.
Under Art. 4. of the Same-Sex Life Partnership Act, same-sex de facto cohabitants are equal in succession rights as the de facto cohabitants of opposite sex. In case of same-sex de facto partnerships the same definition applies to succession as to patrimonial matters.