My legal rights before coming of age

The Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as a human being under the age of 18 unless, under the laws applicable to children, the age of majority is attained earlier. Before reaching the age of majority, every young person goes through a turbulent and challenging period of growing up marked by intense physical, sexual, emotional, psychosocial, and cognitive changes. Step by step, young people are leaving the security of childhood and taking on rights and obligations that they have not encountered thus far. In the Republic of Croatia, these rights and obligations are defined by the Family Act, but sometimes it is very unclear which of these rights can be exercised before reaching the age of majority.


The family law lists the child’s personal rights, which include the right to care for life and health, the right to safety and upbringing in the family appropriate to their physical psychological and other developmental needs, the right to live with their parents, and if they live apart, the child has the right to parental care of both parents, the right to have personal relationships with other close persons and the right to choose education and occupation and the right to employment in accordance with his/her abilities and well-being. Within the enumerated personal rights of a child, there are some that can be realized independently, before the age of majority.

Child’s right to initiate proceedings 

A child who has reached the age of 14 has the right to initiate proceedings independently before the competent authorities regarding the exercise of his / her rights and interests, but only if he / she is able to understand the meaning and legal consequences of such actions. Before taking any action, the court is obliged to seek the opinion of the social welfare centre on the child’s procedural capacity to act in court proceedings. In addition, if a child is in dispute or has a conflict of interest with his / her parents or a legal representative, the social welfare centre or court will assign a special guardian to the child who is obliged to represent the child and protect its rights and interests during the proceedings. 

Informed consent of a child to medical procedures 

A child who has reached the age of 16 and who, in the opinion of a medical doctor, is mature enough to make a decision about procedures related to his or her health or treatment may independently consent to an examination, test, or a medical procedure. If, according to doctor’s assessment, given medical procedure is more complicated, the consent of the parent or other legal representative will be required. In the event of a dispute between a child and a parent or a legal representative regarding undertaking medical procedures, the court will issue a decision which is in the best interests of the child.

An important component of the legal parent-child relationship is parental care, which consists of the responsibilities, duties, and rights of parents, in order to promote the child’s personal and property rights and welfare. They are obliged to exercise it in accordance with the developmental needs of the child and cannot waive the right to parental care. Its basic content consists of caring for (1) health, development, care, and protection, (2) upbringing and education, (3) establishing personal relationships, (4) determining the place of residence. Parental care ceases when the child acquires the legal capacity acquired by coming of age or by entering into marriage before coming of age. Then the person who has acquired legal capacity can independently decide on his / her rights that belong to him / her by law, but such person also assumes certain obligations. Suspension of parental care due to legal obstacles occurs in cases when a child’s parent is a minor or a person deprived of legal capacity in the part in which it is unable to exercise parental care. While parental care is suspended, the other parent can exercise daily care independently or with the other parent of the child or guardian. The suspension of the exercise of parental care due to legal obstacles ceases when the reasons for which the exercise of parental care suspensions ceases to exist.


One of the basic preconditions for marriage is the age of majority, that is, when a child reaches 18 years of age. However, there is an exception here, which states that a minor may marry if he / she acquires legal capacity, but not before the age of 16. Legal capacity implies the property of acquiring rights and obligations by one’s own manifestations of will. The court may allow a person who has reached the age of 16 to marry if it finds that he or she is mentally and physically fit for marriage and that the marriage is in the welfare of that person. If a person is deprived of legal capacity to make statements relating to personal circumstances such as marriage, the marriage may be entered into with the consent of the guardian. However, if the guardian refuses to grant permission to marry, the person deprived of legal capacity may independently submit to the court a proposal for permission to marry. It should be borne in mind that courts and bodies governed by public law which conduct proceedings in which the rights of a child are directly or indirectly decided are governed primarily by the protection of the rights of a child and his or her welfare.

Children are born with fundamental freedoms and rights that belong to all human beings, and the participation of children in court proceedings in which their rights are decided guarantees that the child is informed and can express his or her opinion. However, given the physical and mental immaturity, there is a need to emphasize special rights due to their vulnerability. In making all decisions or carrying out actions that affect the child, the welfare and interest of the child must be paramount. 

If you have any questions regarding the exercise of your rights, visit our web portal for underage pregnant women and parents

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Author: Karmen Stipečmag.act.soc.