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Maintenance Claims

Table of contents:

1. What do the concepts “maintenance” and “maintenance obligation” cover according to the law of the Republic of Croatia?

2. Up to what age can a child benefit from a maintenance allowance?

3. In which cases is the law of the Republic of Croatia applicable?

4. If this law is not applicable, which law will the courts of the Republic of Croatia apply?

5. Should the applicant apply to a specific organisation, a government department or a court to obtain maintenance?

6. Can a request be made on behalf of a relative, a close relation, or a child under age?

7. If the applicant plans to bring the case to court, how does he/she knows which court has jurisdiction?

8. Does the applicant have to go through an intermediary to bring the case to court (e.g. a lawyer, specific organisation or
government department etc.)? If not, which procedures?

9. Does the applicant have to pay fees to bring a case to court If the financial means of the applicant are insufficient, can he/she obtain legal aid to cover the costs of the procedure?

10. What kind of maintenance is likely to be granted by the court? Can the court's decision be revised to take account of the changes in the costs of living or family circumstances?

11. How and to whom will the maintenance be paid?

12. If the maintenance debtor doesn't pay voluntarily, what action can be taken in order to force him/her to pay?

13. Is there an organisation or government department (central or local) which can help me to recover maintenance costs?

14. Can they replace the debtor and pay the maintenance themselves or part of the maintenance in his or her place?

15. Can the applicant obtain the assistance of an organisation or government department in the Republic of Croatia?

16. If so, how can that organisation or government department be contacted?

17. What kind of assistance can the applicant receive from this organisation or government department?

18. Can the petitioner address directly a request to an organisation or government department in the Republic of Croatia?

19. If so, how can that organisation or government department be contacted?

20. What kind of assistance can the petitioner receive from this organisation or government department?


1. What do the concepts “maintenance” and “maintenance obligation” cover according to the law of the Republic of Croatia?
Maintenance is an institution of family law that rests on one of its fundamental principles: mutual assistance between family members (principle of family solidarity). Maintenance allowances are generally paid voluntarily, primarily because of the personal ties between family members, but they may also be enforced through the courts if a person required to pay maintenance refuses to do so.

According to the Family Act, maintenance is the duty and right of parents and children, spouses and extra-marital partners and kin in the direct line, when this is provided for by this Act (Art. 206 of the Family Act). Furthermore, the Act on Same-Sex Civil Unions stipulates maintenance between partners by application of provisions of the Family Act.

Maintenance debtors are stated in the Act with regard to their relationship. Types of maintenance differ with regard to maintained persons, in accordance to which conditions for maintenance, scope of obligation, time period for application and duration of maintenance are stipulated. The above-referenced types of maintenance are as follows:

1. Maintenance between parents and children
2. Maintenance between other relatives
3. Maintenance of a spouse
4. Maintenance of an extra-marital partner and the mother of an extra-marital child
5. Maintenance of a partner


2. Up to what age can a child benefit from a maintenance allowance?
Parents are obliged to maintain their minor children.
Parents are obliged to maintain children who are in full time education even after they reach the age of majority. Parents are obliged to maintain adult children who have completed their education and cannot find employment for a year after the completion of education. Parents are obliged to maintain children who are not able to work due to illness, mental or physical impairment, regardless of duration thereof.


3. In which cases is the law of the Republic of Croatia applicable?
If the defendant has permanent or residence or registered office in the Republic of Croatia, jurisdiction will lie with courts in the Republic of Croatia.

In case the defendant does not have permanent residence in the Republic of Croatia or in some other country, jurisdiction will lie with Croatian courts if the defendant has temporary residence in the Republic of Croatia.

If the litigants are citizens of the Republic of Croatia, jurisdiction will lie with courts in the Republic of Croatia also when the defendant has temporary residence in the Republic of Croatia.


4. If this law is not applicable, which law will the courts of the Republic of Croatia apply?
Jurisdiction in disputes related to statutory child maintenance will lie with courts in the Republic of Croatia when the defendant has permanent residence in the Republic of Croatia:

  • If a child with permanent residence in the Republic of Croatia files a claim,
  • If both the plaintiff and the defendant are citizens of the Republic of Croatia, regardless of their place of permanent residence,
  • If the plaintiff is a minor with citizenship of the Republic of Croatia

Jurisdiction in disputes related to statutory child maintenance which are not listed above will lie with courts in the Republic of Croatia also in cases in which the defendant does not have permanent residence in the Republic of Croatia, provided that the plaintiff is a citizen of the Republic of Croatia and has permanent residence in the Republic of Croatia.

Jurisdiction in disputes related to statutory maintenance of spouses and those between former spouses will lie with courts in the Republic of Croatia if the spouses had their last common residence, and the plaintiff still has permanent residence in the Republic of Croatia at the time of the trial. 

Jurisdiction in disputes related to statutory maintenance will lie with courts in the Republic of Croatia if the defendant has property in the Republic of Croatia that can be used to collect the amount of maintenance.


5. Should the applicant apply to a specific organisation, a government department or a court to obtain maintenance? Applications for maintenance may be filed with a court having subject-matter jurisdiction.


6. Can a request be made on behalf of a relative, a close relation, or a child under age?
A request can be made by the child’s legal representative on his or her behalf.


7. If the applicant plans to bring the case to court, how does he/she knows which court has jurisdiction?
Jurisdiction to adjudicate in disputes will lie with the court having general territorial jurisdiction with regard to the defendant.

The court, on whose territory the defendant has permanent residence, will have jurisdiction to adjudicate in disputes. (Article 46 of the Civil Procedure Act).

If the defendant does not have permanent residence in the Republic of Croatia, general territorial jurisdiction will lie with the court on whose territory the defendant has temporary residence.
If, in addition to permanent residence, the defendant also has temporary residence in another place, and, based on circumstances, it may be assumed that he or she will stay there for a longer period, general territorial jurisdiction will also lie with the court in the defendant’s temporary place of residence. (Article 47 of the Civil Procedure Act)

In case of disputes over statutory maintenance, in which the plaintiff is requesting such maintenance, jurisdiction will, in addition to the court of general territorial jurisdiction also lie with the court on whose territory the plaintiff has permanent or temporary residence.

If, in disputes over statutory maintenance with an international element, a court in the Republic of Croatia has jurisdiction due to the fact that the plaintiff has permanent residence in the Republic of Croatia, territorial jurisdiction will lie with the court on whose territory the plaintiff has permanent residence.

If, in disputes over statutory maintenance, a court in the Republic of Croatia has jurisdiction due to the fact that the defendant has property in the Republic of Croatia from which maintenance may be collected, territorial jurisdiction will lie with the court on whose territory this property is located. (Article 51 of the Civil Procedure Act)


8. Does the applicant have to go through an intermediary to bring the case to court (e.g. a lawyer, specific organisation or government department etc.)? If not, which procedures?
As a rule, maintenance issues are decided upon in a lawsuit, but when it comes to child maintenance by parents, an agreement between parents and their child can be entered in the minutes. Furthermore, provisions of the Family Act do not prevent adult parties from reaching a court settlement on maintenance.

Participation of a social welfare centre in the proceedings conducted before the court represents an additional assistance to the child in obtaining maintenance. The range of activities of social welfare centres stipulated by the Family Act is wide. Welfare centres may initiate and conduct maintenance suits on behalf of a child. As a rule, a minor is represented by his or her legal representative (parent, adoptive parent or guardian).

If another person or an institution takes care of the child or if the parent who resides with the child does not exercise this right due to unjustified reasons, a social welfare centre may seek maintenance instead of the child’s legal representative.

Social welfare centres are authorized to assess whether the reasons are justified or not, or such assessment will be performed by the court on the basis of the objection filed by the parents.

Social welfare centres will act as guardian ad litem; it is necessary that a decision on the guardian ad litem be rendered before the initiation of a lawsuit.

Whenever it is decided upon the rights and interests of a child, the court is obliged to serve a summons on the competent social welfare centre for its participation in the proceedings, and the social welfare centre is obliged to appear before the court.

Social welfare centres are entitled to take all procedural actions – file motions, propose the taking of evidence, present facts that have not been presented by the parties and seek a legal remedy.

Social welfare centres can act as assistants to the court – upon request of the court, social welfare centres are obliged to perform a thorough inspection of the assets owned by the parties to the proceedings, paying special attention to whether the amount of income the defendant has stated corresponds to actual facts.

If compared to courts, social welfare centres can, due to the methods used, gain a more reliable insight into actual circumstances and living conditions of the parties, so providing assistance to the court in relation to this role is an important feature of their work regulated by law.

It should be pointed out here that the court is not bound by the motions or requests of social welfare centres, as their position in court proceedings does not differ from those of other parties to the proceedings. The court is competent and authorized for rendering a final decision on the merits, i.e. child maintenance.


9. Does the applicant have to pay fees to bring a case to court if the financial means of the applicant are insufficient, can he/she obtain legal aid to cover the costs of the procedure?
The nature of special proceedings for family-related matters does not allow unconditional application of general rules on the compensation of the litigation costs, especially due to restricted rights to take actions regarding the litigation claims and the subject matter of a dispute.

Courts decide freely on the costs of proceedings related to status matters, taking into account the outcome of the proceedings. (Art. 272 of the Family Act)

With regard to welfare centres, provisions about litigation costs that refer to a state attorney’s participation in the litigation will be applied. (Art. 162 and 279 of the Family Act)

Article 5, Paragraph 1 of the Legal Aid Act stipulates that legal aid may be obtained in all proceedings conducted before courts, if existential matters are thereby resolved (status issues included).


10. What kind of maintenance is likely to be granted by the court? Can the court's decision be revised to take account of the changes in the costs of living or family circumstances?
The court determines the total amount of funds necessary for maintenance of the plaintiff as stipulated by law: in this process the court will take into account the income of the person requesting maintenance, his or her financial situation, capacity for work, opportunities for employment, state of health and other circumstances on which the maintenance decision depends. (Art. 231, Paragraph 2 of the Family Act)

Other circumstances may refer to age, living conditions and similar.
Whenever a change of circumstances occurs, the maintenance creditor or debtor may request that the court orders a decrease or an increase of the maintenance amount, due to the application of clausula rebus sic stantibus. A decrease in the amount of maintenance may occur due to decreased needs of the maintenance creditor (additional income, improvement of health) or decreased needs of the maintenance debtor (he or she has become a parent and is therefore obliged to maintain the child, his or her income gets reduced etc.)

An increase in the amount of maintenance may occur due to increased needs of the creditor (deterioration of health, increased needs of the maintained person – child due to pursuing education) or due to improved possibilities for maintenance (better income, cessation of the maintenance obligation towards a third party etc.)


11. How and to whom will the maintenance be paid?
In a maintenance suit, a request for maintenance is put forward in a claim by the maintained person. The court determines the total amount of funds necessary for maintenance by taking into account the income of the person requesting maintenance, his or her financial situation, capacity for work, opportunities for employment, state of health and other circumstances on which the maintenance decision depends. (Art. 231, Paragraph 2 of the Family Act)

Also, in accordance with Article 207 of the Family Act, the court is obliged to take into account the needs of the maintained person. Needs of each and any person receiving maintenance are considered individually, and regarding the fact that the court is obliged to assess other circumstances, as well, it is evident that different amounts may be determined with regard to different persons receiving maintenance.

Another element determining the amount of maintenance is the financial situation of the person obliged to pay maintenance.


12. If the maintenance debtor doesn't pay voluntarily, what action can be taken in order to force him/her to pay? Enforcement refers to forced collection of claims. In case the debtor refuses to pay maintenance, payments can be collected by income or moveable or immoveable property assignment.

Enforcement of maintenance may be implemented up to the amount of one half, and for the payment of claims on any other basis up to the amount of one-third of the salary, compensation or pension. (Article 149, Paragraph 1 of the Enforcement Act)


13. Is there an organisation or government department (central or local) which can help me to recover maintenance costs? Temporary child maintenance amounts depend on the relevant designated funds. It should be noted here that these are not grant funds. Each and any physical or natural person who bore maintenance costs is entitled to claim the costs from the person who was obliged to pay maintenance. (Art. 244 of the Family Act)

Such an action, version in rem, is stipulated by Article 1119 of the Civil Obligations Act. According to the above Article, where a person has incurred an expense, or similar, for another, which the former has been obliged to do under the law, he or she will have a right of recourse against the latter.


14. Can they replace the debtor and pay the maintenance themselves or part of the maintenance in his or her place?
If a social welfare centre establishes that the person obliged to pay maintenance fails to fulfil his or her obligation in due time or fails completely in this respect, it is obliged to assess the circumstances of the case and take one or more measures listed below to protect the child’s interests:

  • Ensure the funds for temporary maintenance of the child if the parent fails to fulfil his or her obligations for a period longer than three months (Art. 352 of the Family Act)
  • File and conduct a maintenance suit or a suit for increased maintenance on behalf of the child (Art. 234 Paragraph 1 of the Family Act)
  • Seek enforcement of the decision concerning child maintenance (Art. 234. Paragraph 2 of the Family Act)

15. Can the applicant obtain the assistance of an organisation or government department in the Republic of Croatia?
Yes.

16. If so, how can that organisation or government department be contacted?
When the maintenance debtor resides abroad, the Ministry of Finance, Tax Administration, Central Office, Zagreb, Boškovićeva 5 (tel. 4809 209) should be contacted.

17. What kind of assistance can the applicant receive from this organisation or government department?
When the maintenance debtor lives in another country and fails to meet his or her obligation, a maintenance order is enforced under the Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance (1965), signed by a large number of countries, including the Republic of Croatia.

Central administration bodies of the signatory countries (in the Republic of Croatia it is the Ministry of Finance) are responsible for the application of the procedure established by the Convention. The applicant files an application with the Ministry of Finance, which will forward it to the central administration body of another country.

The Ministry of Finance will:

  • Establish whether the application contains all relevant information and whether it has been drawn up in accordance with provisions of the Convention
  • Forward the applications which satisfy the above requirements to the central administration body of the debtor’s country
  • Recommend that legal aid should be provided to the creditor and that he or she should not be held liable for costs (if requested so by the creditor)


18. Can the petitioner address directly a request to an organisation or government department in the Republic of Croatia? The applicant (creditor) residing abroad is obliged to contact the competent body of his or her country, which will then contact the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of the Republic of Croatia and deliver required documents to the Ministry.


19. If so, how can that organisation or government department be contacted?
When the debtor resides in the Republic of Croatia, he or she should contact the competent body in the country where the child resides, which will then forward the application to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of the Republic of Croatia.


20. What kind of assistance can the applicant receive from this organisation or government department?

The country of the creditor (applicant) delivers required documents to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of the Republic of Croatia.

The Ministry forwards the above documents to the social welfare centre located in the debtor’s place of residence.
The social welfare centre informs the debtor on the application and his or her maintenance obligations and the consequences of the failure to meet these obligations.

The debtor will respond to the claim and, if he or she is willing to meet their obligations, the social welfare centre will inform them of the account into which payments will be made.

In case the debtor refuses to meet his or her obligations, the social welfare centre will take an action to enforce payment of the established amount of maintenance. If such an amount has not been established by a court judgment, the social welfare centre will initiate court proceedings to determine the amount of maintenance (the social welfare centre will request that the creditor should be held liable for the costs of the proceedings and that an attorney be assigned to represent the creditor).


 

Further information:
Family Act (Official Gazette: 116/03, 17/04, 136/04 and 107/07)
Civil Procedure Act (Official Gazette: 53/91,91/92,112/99, 88/01, 117/03, 84/08 and 123/08)
Social Welfare Act (Official Gazette 73/97, 27/01, 59/01, 82/01, 103/03, 44/06 and 79/07)
Act on Same-Sex Civil Unions (Official Gazette 116/03)
   
International convention
Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance (1965)