In the Republic of Croatia, LGBT parents are discriminated compared to parents of different sex.
The right to joint adoption of children for same-sex couples in Croatia is prevented. It is also impossible to adopt partner’s child. For example, children who are born into families of same-sex partners are “single-parent families” for the Republic of Croatia while, for example, “non-biological” mother can regulate the relationship with her child only through the status of partner-guardian.
The right to medically assisted insemination is granted only to couples of different sex and only for the purpose of treating infertility. Same-sex Life Partnership Act prohibits discrimination against life partners regarding the obligations, rights or privileges relating to health insurance and health care, and in this respect they must be equal to marital relationships. Therefore, a woman who is in a life partnership and has been diagnosed with infertility can still obtain treatment for infertility via assisted insemination.
Increasing number of LGBT persons in Croatia is planning parenthood despite the numerous legal, regulatory and social barriers. So far, we have come across many examples of LGBT parenting and the ways in which LGBTIQ people are planning family: assisted insemination abroad, assisted insemination outside the health care system, single-parent adoption of a child, agreement between life partners with a male donor, agreement between gay and lesbian couples and so on.
There is a group of LGBT parents in Croatia where LGBTIQ people are exchanging their experiences related to LGBT parenting, family planning and upbringing of children. Zagreb Pride is in contact with LGBT parents and works on advocating for the expansion of parental rights.
The mission of the Zagreb Pride, in the context of LGBTIQ families and couples, is not completed by passing the Same-sex Life Partnership Act. We continue the struggle for the rights of LGBT parents and our children. Until we reach the full marriage equality in the Republic of Croatia.
Possibilities for planned LGBTIQ parenting in Croatia
After the Life Partnership Act was passed, there have been two new institutes which regulate and protect LGBTIQ family life: parental responsibility and partner-guardianship. Generally, both of those institutes give the rights to life partner to achieve parental responsibilities for the child, i.e. the content of those responsibilities, which strengthens the protection of the child that lives in an LGBTIQ family. The implementation of the Life Partnership Act protects children in life situations when the protection and support of both parents is most needed, respecting the possibilities of a life in alternative family circumstances. Applying the institute of parental responsibilities for the child, the protection of a child is of primary interest when both parents are known and use their parental care, but they want to share this care with one or two life partners.
With the institute of partner-guardianship, issues about common parental responsibilities for the child are being resolved for children whose other parent is unknown or is deprived of parental responsibilities because of harassment of the child. It also applies to issues of parental responsibilities of the partner over the child after the death of the parent or the deceased life partner. If the parent is unknown, in the case e.g. that the existence of the child’s father is denied by the mother, and he does not acknowledge paternity, or the child is born with the help of medically assisted fertilization or other cases when the father’s identity is unknown to the mother. If the child has only one parent legally recognized, most often the mother, it is possible to require the municipal court (competent according to the child place of residence) to appoint partner-guardian to the other mother, i.e. to the partner that does not have any legally recognized parental status over that child. In that case, the court will ask for the opinion of the competent Center for Social Welfare and give the final decision. With the status of partner-guardian, permanent parental responsibilities and all of the rights and obligations are being acquired. The status is being registered in the birth certificate of the child in a separate column. Establishing the care between child and the partner-guardian on the one side, and child and its descendants on the other, permanent rights and obligations that, by the law, exist between parents, children’s and their descendants, are being established. By the Inheritance act, life partner is equaled with the married partner, and children over whom he/she/they have partner-guardianship is being equaled with their children.
If the child has both parents legally recognized, the life partner can, with the consent of both parents, perform certain contents of parental responsibilities. In that case together with both parents, life partner can perform parental responsibilities for the child. That responsibility and contents of parental responsibility can be only temporary, permanent or onetime, and could be entrusted partially or completely. If the parental responsibilities are being entrusted for the time period longer than 30 days, the parent’s statement has to be a notarized certificate. A Centre for Social Welfare issues the decision about the custodian for the child over which no one exerts parental responsibilities.
Disadvantages of the Life Partnership Act
Even though Life Partnership Act is providing better arrangements for family life of LGBTIQ parents and their children, it still has some disadvantages. Solutions given by the Life Partnership Act are transitional, sometimes only temporary and flexible, unlike some other traditional forms of parental responsibilities which have higher level of child protection. For example, parental responsibilities in the fullest sense, as well as adoption, are better protected by the Family Act. However, the Family Act has always primacy over the regulation from the Life Partnership Act, so for example, person that suspects to be the father of a child can ask for paternity testing, as so can the mother or the child itself if it suspects that someone is his/her/their father. Also, the parental responsibility institute by the life partner is not permanent, because parents of the child can change their mind over earlier agreements on shared responsibilities towards the child. Future practice will direct attention on these and similar kinds of legal disadvantages, especially regarding the need for protection of children living in LGBTIQ families. Untill then, life partners can use any available legal mechanisms to protect and secure their family life, which has every right to be enriched with the life with their children. In Croatia, there are groups that gather LGBTIQ parents so that individuals and couples could share their experiences with LGBTIQ parenthood, planning of the family and upbringing of the children. Zagreb Pride is in contact with LGBQ parents and is advocating for the expansion of parental rights.