Family Policies: Lithuania (2015)

Introduction 
For the past 25 years, the design and implementation of family policies in Lithuania has been very changeable. The main tools of family policy (childcare leave/benefits, child/family allowances, childcare schemes, etc.) have been changed many times. The most important laws on family policy are the:

  1. Law on Benefits for Children (introduced in 1994, amended many times from 1995-2014; last amendment in 2014);
  2. Law On Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance (introduced in 1981, modified many times from 1988-2010, last modification in 2010).

Since the beginning of the 1990s, governmental and state institutions have initiated, developed, and passed (approved) different strategic documents on family policy: Conception of Family Policy (approved by the Government in 1996); Strategy for the National Population Policy (approved by the Government in 2004); National Family Policy Conception (adopted by the Seimas (Parliament) in 2008). 

Parental (maternity/paternity) leave/benefits, which have been subject to multiple modifications in recent years, continue to be the principal measure supporting families with children. Since 2010, parental (maternity/paternity) leave/benefits is rather long, flexible, and highly paid. In 2006, paternity leave (one month and highly paid) was introduced for fathers. The availability and quality of formal childcare services, particularly for children under three years of age, remains a very important and territorially highly differentiated issue. 

 

Childcare provision 
In 2014, 68 % of children from one to six years of age attended childcare institutions in addition to 33 % of children under three and 86 % of children between three and six years of age (Education 2015).
The fee for the maintenance of children in childcare facilities (public or private) is determined by the founder. The founders of public childcare institutions are the municipalities, which make decisions on the issue. Public childcare institutions are financed from the municipal budget and parental fees. Municipal spending on childcare and parental fees varies by municipalities. 
The parental fee per child for a childcare institution (except private) is reduced by 50 % if:

  • the child has only one parent;
  • the family is raising three or more children;
  • the father is in compulsory military service;
  • the child is from a family in which one parent is attending full-time education.

According to data from 2014, 88 % of childcare institutions are public and 12 % are private. 95 % of children attend public childcare institutions (Education 2015). 

The types of institutionalised childcare include nurseries, kindergartens, kindergarten schools, and other providers of childcare services holding a licence.

Childcare is provided to a child from his/her birth until the commencement of pre-primary or primary education (Education 2015).

 

Parental leave (including maternity protection) 
Parental (maternity, parental (maternity/paternity), and paternity) leaves/benefits in Lithuania are regulated by the Law On Sickness And Maternity Social Insurance (effective). The Law on sickness and maternity social insurance of the Republic of Lithuania Nr. IX-110 was passed on 21.12.2000. The last amendment (effective) of the Law in the changes of parental leave Articles, Nr. XI-982. 02.07.2010 established: 

Maternity leave/benefit (maternity protection)
Women are entitled to receive maternity benefit for the period of maternity leave if:

  • they are covered by sickness and maternity social insurance;
  • before the first day of the maternity leave they have had sickness and maternity social insurance coverage for not less than 12 months during the last 24 months.

 The maternity leave/benefit for women who gave birth after 30 weeks of pregnancy and later is paid for 126 calendar days. In cases of complicated childbirth or if more than one child was born, the benefit is paid for an additional 14 calendar days.
The insured person who is appointed as a guardian of a newborn shall be paid a maternity benefit for the period from the date of establishment of the guardianship until the day the baby is 70 days old.

The amount of the maternity benefit during the maternity leave period shall cover 100 % of the beneficiary’s reimbursed remuneration. The amount of the benefit per month may not be lower than one-third of the current year’s insured income valid in the month of the beginning of the maternity leave. Maternity leave is financed by the State Social Insurance Fund Board (SoDra), under the Ministry of Social Security and Labour.
 
Parental – maternity (paternity) leave/benefit
One of the parents (adoptive parents) or a foster parent covered by sickness and maternity social insurance is entitled to the maternity (paternity) benefit if:

  • she/he is covered by sickness and maternity social insurance;
  • before the first day of the parental leave she/he has had sickness and maternity social insurance coverage for not less than 12 months during the last 24 months.

A parental benefit shall be paid for the period of a childcare leave after the end of maternity leave until the child is one or two years old.

The amount of parental benefit depends on the chosen receipt duration of the benefit: If the insured person chooses to receive the benefit until the child turns one year old, the amount of the benefit is 100 % of the beneficiary’s reimbursed remuneration; if the person chooses to receive the benefit until the child turns two years old, the benefit until the child turns one is 70 % and then 40 % of the beneficiary’s reimbursed remuneration until the child turns two years old. 
The amount of a parental benefit per month shall not be less than one-third of the current year’s insured income valid at the beginning month of childcare leave.
The maximum reimbursed remuneration for the calculation of parental benefits may not exceed the sum of the 3.2-fold amount of the insured income approved by the Government for the current year, which was valid in the month of acquisition of the entitlement to the maternity (paternity) benefit. Maternity/paternity (parental) leave is financed by the State Social Insurance Fund Board (SoDra), under the Ministry of Social Security and Labour. In 2013, 12 % of men took parental leave.

Paternity leave/benefit
The father is entitled to paternity leave/benefit if:

  • he is covered by sickness and maternity social insurance;
  • he was granted paternity leave until the child was one month old;
  • before the first day of the paternity leave he had the sickness and maternity social insurance coverage for not less than 12 months during the last 24 months.

The paternity benefit shall be paid for the period of paternity leave from the day of childbirth until the child is one month old.

The amount of the paternity benefit is 100 % of the beneficiary’s reimbursed remuneration. The benefit per month shall not be lower than one-third of the current year’s insured income valid for the month of the granting of paternity leave.
The maximum reimbursed remuneration for the calculation of paternity benefits may not exceed the sum of the 3.2-fold amount of the insured income approved by the Government for the current year, which was valid in the month of acquisition of the entitlement to the paternity benefit. Paternity leave is financed by the State Social Insurance Fund Board (SoDra), under the Ministry of Social Security and Labour.

 

Family allowances
The main allowances for families and children are regulated by The Law on Benefits for Children (effective) - Republic of Lithuania Law on benefits for children. 03.11.1994 – No I-621 (as last amended on 08.05.2014 – No XII-865):
 
Assistance to pregnant women and families raising children
A pregnant unemployed woman who, under the Law on Sickness and Maternity Social Insurance, is not entitled to receive the maternity benefit, is granted a lump-sum benefit of 2 Basic Social Benefit (BSB) (since 01.01.2015, 76€) 70 calendar days before the delivery.

Lump-sum benefit
Every child born receives a lump-sum benefit of 11 BSB (since 01.01.2015, 418€). Every adopted child receives a lump-sum benefit of 11 BSB (since 01.01.2015, 418€).

Child benefit
Every child raised in a family or placed under guardianship in a family and who is up to two years of age receives a monthly benefit of 0.75 BSB (since 01.01.2015, 28.5€), if the monthly income per family member is less than 1.5 times the amount of the SSI (since 01.01.2015, 153€).
Every child raised in a family or placed under guardianship in a family and who is between two and seven years old (or between two and 18 years old in a family raising and/or fostering three or more children) receives a monthly benefit of 0.40 BSB (since 01.01.2015 15.20€), if the monthly income per family member is less than 1.5 times the amount of the SSI (since 01.01.2015, 153€)
Every child of a soldier in mandatory primary military service receives, during the parent’s service, a monthly benefit of 1.5 BSB (since 01.01.2015, 57€). 

 

Marriage
The Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania defines marriage as the main legal form for the creation of family relations. Marriage is defined as a voluntary agreement between a man and a woman to create family relations. The state also recognises marriages registered in a church (religious confession).  

The minimum age for entering into marriage is set at 18 years. Nevertheless, the court has the right to issue a marriage permit at earlier ages. Persons from 16 years of age can receive a marriage permit if they express their will to marry, and persons younger than 16 years are entitled to a marriage permit in the case of pregnancy. In order to make a decision on the reduction of person’s legal marriage age, the court must hear the opinion of the minor’s parents and take into account his or her mental or psychological condition, financial situation, and other important reasons why the legal age of consent to marry should be reduced. 

Marriage rights are restricted to persons declared as legally incapacitated, married persons, and persons related by blood. Before registering to marry, persons are encouraged to undergo a premarital medical examination; however, the non-submission of medical certificate is not an impediment for the registration of a marriage. Failure of one of the parties to inform the other party that he or she is suffering from a venereal disease or AIDS provides a cause for rendering the marriage null and void. Law does not recognise same-sex unions. 

 

Divorce 
Divorce legislation in Lithuania underwent several major reforms through the 20th century and in the beginning of the 21st century. After the Soviet occupation in 1940, the Russian Federation Family and Marriage Code of 1926 was adopted briefly in Lithuania and was reinstalled after WWII in 1944. In the same year, the decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Council on divorce regulation came into force. The imposed legislation established a substantially new legal framework for marriage and divorce and abolished the Catholic Church’s legislation for marital life that regulated family life in Lithuania from the middle of the 19th century (Juozapaitienė 2011; Marcinkevičienė 2009). The Soviet legislation granted supremacy to civil marriage and introduced the civil right to divorce. The divorce procedure was associated with very high social, financial, and legal costs. The fee for the formal application for divorce was 100 roubles, and depending on the decision of the court, the registration of divorce could cost between 500 to 2,000 rubbles. The person applying for a divorce had first to advertise this application in the local newspaper. The legal divorce procedure in Lithuania was designed as a two stage process: At the People’s Court spouses are required to participate in counselling or attempt to resolve their differences and if this failed the case was transferred to the higher instance court, where a decision on the divorce could be granted (Сысенко 1981; Mazur 1969). Interestingly, the court could dismiss a divorce petition even if there was a mutual agreement between the spouses to divorce. No other grounds apart from the irretrievable breakdown of marriage were specified in the law, and the judge’s decision depended on “his interpretation of the notion as to what serves the best interests of the society” (Antokolskaia 2002).

In December 1965, the divorce legislation in Lithuania, as in all the USSR, was liberalised (Decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Council of 10 December 1965). The decree cancelled the two stage legal procedure and the requirement of the public announcement of divorce in the newspaper. Divorce cases were processed at and could be granted by the People’s Court (Сысенко 1981). Divorce could also be granted in the civil registry office for couples without minor children, who had no property contests, and who were divorcing on the ground of common agreement. 

In contemporary Lithuania, minor modifications in the legal divorce procedure were introduced in 2001, upon the adoption of the new Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania (Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania, 2000). Under this code, the court is declared the only institution that has the authority to consider and to grant a divorce (Kudinavičiūtė-Michailovienė 2007). The Civil Code defines three ways to divorce: 1) marriage can be dissolved by mutual agreement of spouses; 2) by the application of one of the spouses; or 3) due to the fault of one or both of the spouses. Moreover, the Civil Code established the unconditional link between the divorce and the solution of all legal consequences of divorce. The legal consequences of divorce involve maintenance payments for minor children and each spouse, the residence of the minor children, visitation rights and orders of the non-resident parent, and property rights and duties. 

 

Cohabitation and civil unions
The Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania (21.06.2011, No. VIII-1864) introduced the institution of registered partnership between heterosexual couples. It regulates the property relations of a man and women who, after registering their partnership, have been cohabiting for at least one year with the aim of creating family relations, without having registered their union as a marriage. Partnership conditions include having reached the age of majority, possessing full legal capacity, being of the opposite sex, the absence of marriage, not being related by blood or marriage to a degree that prohibits partners in law from marrying each other, and registration. The partnership is allowed only between adults; the court shall not permit the registration of partnership between minors. In the case of registered partnership, the legal regulation covers only some of the property relations between partners but does not cover personal non-property relations between them. The registered partnership is subject to the verification criterion, i.e. the partners must have lived together for at least one year. 

There are significant differences between the legal rights of partners in marriage and in registered partnerships: For example, partners in a registered partnership have no obligation to support each other, there is no legal obligation to provide maintenance for a cohabitant after separation, and after death of a partner the surviving partner has no right of succession. The separation of informal relationships and its consequences are not subject to legal regulation. 

The maintenance of common children is regulated separately; the duty to support a child is universal and does not depend on the marital status of the parents.

The Civil Code of 2001 introduced the institution of registered partnership; nevertheless, a lack of adjunct legal norms limits the regulation of property and non-property relationships in registered partnerships. The existing law creates conditions for the discrimination of persons living in family relationships based on a registered partnership. There have been several attempts to introduce clearer legal norms regulating registered partnerships (2004; 2006; 2007; 2011; 2012; 2014), however, all attempts to make amendments failed. Thus, the legal premises for the functioning of the institution of registered partnership remain inconsistent and unclear. 

 

Authors – Contributors
Childcare, Parental leave & Family allowances:
Vlada Stankūnienė
Vytautas Magnus University, Demographic Research Centre

Marriage, Divorce & Cohabitation:
Aušra Maslauskaitė 
Vytautas Magnus University, Demographic Research Centre

 

 

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