Petar Petrić : Marriage contract

In Croatia, just like in Europe and around the world, people with higher incomes or the possibility of acquiring significant assets, such as entrepreneurs, managers, public figures and celebrities from the world of sports and showbiz, are increasingly thinking about how to arrange marital property relations differently than it is prescribed by the provisions of the Family Law.

People get married later in life, and some maybe for the second, third or even fourth time. They often bring more assets and more liabilities into a new relationship, blending children from previous relationships, and in any case face new challenges to address.

Why a marriage contract? A marriage contract can solve many important issues and avoid problems. Whether partners have large assets or live relatively more modest lives, they can certainly benefit greatly from the security provided by entering into a marriage contract.

Even though the term pre-nuptial agreement, which is most often used in the Anglo-Saxon law (premartial agreement, abbreviated pre-nup) can be heard in everyday speech, our legislation does not recognize the term pre-nuptial agreement but uses the term marriage contract.

The conclusion of a marriage contract is an option that modern legislation, including the Croatian legislation since 1998, provides for spouses, in order to regulate their property relations in a way that best suits their wishes and needs.

 Marriage contract

Marriage contract is defined as the legal business of the bride and groom or spouses to regulate property relations on existing or future property.

Who can conclude a marriage contract?

A marriage contract can be concluded by the bride and groom, i.e. spouses. Also, extramarital partners can regulate their property relations via contract, since the provisions of the Family Law on property relations of spouses apply to the extramarital union of an unmarried woman and an unmarried man which lasts at least three years or less if a joint child was born in it. Also, provisions of the Life Partnership Act, and of the previous Same-Sex Life Partnership Act, enable same-sex partners to contractually regulate property relations on existing and future acquisitions and property, by concluding contracts in writing and certifying the signatures of both partners.

What can a marriage contract contain?

A marriage contract may contain provisions on:

  • determining different shares in matrimonial property or only on a certain specific type acquis
  • determining revenue as own property
  • determining the right of first refusal on the property
  • management or disposal of property
  • waiver of the right to demand the division of marital property for a fixed period of time
  • that the gifts made from matrimonial property are the property of the recipient
  • the manner in which the matrimonial property is dissolved so that certain things or rights become property of one spouse
  • dissolution of marital property • establishment of real or obligatory rights (condominium ownership, easement, right of first refusal)


When can it be concluded and when does it become valid?

A marriage contract can be concluded before the marriage or during the marriage. If it is concluded before the marriage, then the contract has a suspensive effect. This means that a marriage contract concluded before marriage begins to produce legal effects only through the concluding of marriage between the contracting parties.

What is the recommended and permitted content?

In Croatian law, a marriage contract can regulate property relations on existing and future property. Spouses are free to regulate their property relations and may regulate them in such a way that they completely or partially deviate from the legal provision that the property that the spouse has at the time of marriage is his own property, and that the spouses are equal co-owners of the property acquired through work for the duration of the marriage – marital property.

What is the necessary form and who can the spouses turn to?

A marriage contract is concluded in writing and the signatures of the spouses must be certified by a notary public. For greater legal certainty, it is a good idea for the contracting parties to turn to an experienced professional, a lawyer, who will draw up a marriage contract according to their agreement.

Is the marriage contract immutable?

A marriage contract can be amended at any time by the consent of the contracting parties, and a new marriage contract can be concluded or an existing one can be changed.


What is the point of concluding a marriage contract?

Conclusion of a marriage contract is relevant in many ways. Those who have already gone through one divorce know how difficult the divorce process can be. Many who enter into a second marriage seek to ensure that property obtained from a previous marriage is protected. In addition, a marriage contract can help protect the financial interests of children from that first marriage.

Similarly, if one or both spouses have children from a previous relationship, then many people think it is a good idea to enter into a marriage contract. It can ensure that certain property is protected and set aside as the future inheritance of their children and is not subject to division of property if divorce occurs.

Property acquired before marriage is generally exempt from division, but in practice it is often difficult to determine what was acquired before marriage or whether spouses have different views on it, and it is the marriage contract that can help determine which property belongs to each spouse, which ensures that these assets do not mix with other assets.

Although trust between partners is desirable in all segments of their lives, including property, the advantage of mutual regulation of property relations through a marriage contract is especially evident in moments of termination of marriage or community in such a way that the existence of a marriage contract can certainly contribute to a more peaceful divorce or termination of extramarital or same-sex unions, thus avoiding lengthy litigation and high court costs related to property disputes resulting from such divorces.

Some people think that concluding a marriage or prenuptial agreement is not romantic. Perhaps one of the answers to this could be that love is a matter of romance and the regulation of property relations is a practical matter.