New Law: “Married Couples Without Children Are Not a Family”

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Proposal of the new Family Law has stirred fierce debate.

The proposal of the new Family Law, which was sent to public consultation on Wednesday, includes the definition of a family: “For the purposes of this Law, the family consists of a mother, a father and their children, a mother with a child or a father with a child even though they do not live together, and other relatives living with them, reports Jutarnji List on September 28, 2017.

In short, those who do not have children will not be considered a family. But, some part of the families with children will also no longer be considered a family. These are children who are being raised by two persons of the same sex. Although under the Law on Life Partnership the same-sex partner who is not a parent of a child has, under certain conditions, the right to providing the so-called partner care, which is almost the same as parenting, the new Family Law clearly says they are not a family.

It is also questionable whether the definition of family includes those in which grandparents are raising grandchildren after their parents have died, and it is certain that foster parents and children they are raising are no longer considered to be a family, regardless of whether the biological mother and father have anything to do with these kids.

In the introductory remarks, the authors of the Law state that this definition is used just “for the purposes of applying the Family Law, which does not interfere with the issues of respect for family life.” However, this is a fundamental law which regulates the family matters and whose repercussions have to be taken into consideration. Family relationships are so prone to change that it is impossible to include everything which is considered a family in a single definition. Therefore, there are few states in Europe which even have any such definition in their Family Law.

The new law brings a number of changes compared to the existing one. One of the most critical areas is divorce, which is broadly similar to solutions provided by the law of 15 years ago. For married couples, parents of underage children, divorce requests will no longer be submitted to a social welfare centre, they will not have to attend counselling sessions on how to best care for children, nor will they have to make a parental plan. The divorce request will again be submitted directly to court. In this way, spouses will again have to use attorneys, who are not so important according to the current law.

Instead of compulsory child counselling, the law reintroduces marriage mediation, aimed at reconciling married couples or “providing them with professional assistance to identify reasons which have led to a disturbance in marital relationships, and to assist them, whenever possible, in removing these reasons.” If the experts fail to do so, they will provide them with professional help to reach a parental care agreement, taking into account the best interests of the child.

As stated in the introductory remarks, “the new provisions protect the institution of marriage and further implement the constitutional obligation of the state to protect the family.” Spouses without children will not have to attend counselling sessions.

The extramarital couple will still not have to be registered with a notary, as was previously rumoured, but the provisions according to which extramarital couples’ rights were almost equalised with married couples are no longer included the law. Thus, for example, such couples will not be able to adopt children under the same conditions as married couples, but only “exceptionally, if there are particularly justified reasons on the child’s side.”

The new law was drafted by a working group established by former Minister of Social Affairs Bernardica Juretić, and led by Dubravka Hrabar, the dean of the Law Faculty in Zagreb.

Translated from Jutarnji List.

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