Pravni Zapisi (Jan 2014)

Cooperation of the social welfare center and the court in family court proceedings new Croatian Family Law framework

  • Aras-Kramar Slađana

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 5, no. 2
pp. 534 – 572


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The jurisdiction and roles of the social welfare center in family court proceeding are analysed in the context of family law protection of chil- dren pursuant to the new Family Act of the Republic of Croatia from 2014 (hereinafter: FARC 2014). First, the role of the social welfare center as a party in family court proceedings is considered. Then, in the paper follows the analysis of the provisions of the FARC 2014 on the social welfare center as a (temporary) legal representative of the child and the body of assistance of the court. In analysing the role of the social welfare centre as a body of assistance of the court, the position of children in family court proceedings according the new Croatian Family Act is taken into account. In the separate, sixth part of the paper the methods are discussed of alternative dispute resolution of family matters (mandatory counselling and family mediation) according to the new FARC 2014, as well as the task of the social welfare center in their implementation. In the final part of the paper, the author indicates the summary of research results and some of the de lege ferenda projections on cooperation of the social welfare center and the court, as well as on jurisdiction and roles of the center in family court proceedings. These projections are aimed to pragmatically regulation of procedures in family matters involving children and, consequently, better substantial-procedural protection of the welfare of the child. Although the (new) third Family Act of the Republic of Croatia (2014) since its independence made significant changes in quality of the family law protection of children, the author's suggestion is that further steps should be made in the field of the organization of family justice. First, the provisions on the social welfare center as a (temporary) le gal representative of the child should be left. The representation of the child in family court proceedings in cases when there is a conflict of interest between him/her and his/her parents and when is necessary to ensure the representation of the child regardless of his/her parents should be fully provide through changes of the jurisdiction of the institution for representing children the Center for Special Guardianship which should develop in the special attorney for children. Secondly, we should think about changes of the jurisdiction in family matters in a way that only certain first instance courts in Croatia have this jurisdiction, as it is proposed for the courts at the seat of the county courts (family departments at first instance courts). In addition, the matters of adoption and guardianship should be transferred from the jurisdiction of the social welfare center in the jurisdiction of the court, whereby the procedure of preparing for the adoption will remain under the competence of the social welfare center (and other social welfare institutions and NGOs which are authorised to provide the program of professional training for adoptive parents). The service for judicial assistance to young people should be organised (and this service should be composed of social workers, social pedagogues, psychologists, therapists, lawyers, etc). To this service should be transferred most of the tasks of the social welfare center as a body of assistance of the court. Thirdly, the author welcomes the regulation on family mediation as an appropriate forum for the amicable resolution of family disputes. However, prescribing and strengthen family mediation (only) in the framework of the social welfare system, in other words, in the social welfare centers which employees should complete the postgraduate specialist study of family mediation is restrictive to the development of family mediation alone. The author suggests that is necessary to examine the conditions under which the family mediators may be registered in the Register of Family Mediators and provide family mediation, as well as which qualifications must have family mediators to provide family mediation in individual cases, taking into account the cases of property relations within the family. Fourthly, it is necessary to work on a systematic, interdisciplinary training of judges, special guardian/child representatives, employees of social welfare centers and family mediators, in particular on improving of professional knowledge and skills to communicate with children and enabling children to express their views.