From a legal point of view, divorces and separation proceedings in Switzerland are straightforward and clear. Divorces are processed by the courts and the method by which your file for a divorce is particularly streamlined if you and your partner agree.
How to separate or divorce in Switzerland
All divorce proceedings in Switzerland are managed by the courts in your county (canton) of residence, or the canton where your ex-partner is resident. There, the court will take you through the necessary steps to file for divorce, with a strict emphasis on the well-being and safety of both parties and the rest of your family. The method with which you file for divorce is dependent on the circumstances behind the separation and whether both parties agree to divorce.
Joint petition is where both parties file for divorce in a joint application. In these cases, it is not necessary to explain the grounds or reasons for divorce, in a system similar to a “no-fault” divorce. However, it is still recommended to consult a lawyer, who can assist both parties in drafting the mandatory agreement that has to be submitted to the court, alongside a written declaration. In this agreement, you must detail:
- Custody arrangements for any children you might have.
- Maintenance payments for each partner.
- Division of property, other assets and the legal fees around divorce.
Typically, joint petitions are pre-agreed between the two parties and can therefore be enacted without significant court proceedings.
Unilateral petition in Switzerland
Unilateral petition is submitted if only one partner wants a divorce. To file this petition, you must be separated from your partner and have lived apart for a minimum of two years. Special accommodations can be made if it is deemed “unreasonable to expect to continue the marriage”, which in most cases refers to physical abuse.
The agreements between both parties in a unilateral petition are decided upon in a court setting, so it is always recommended to consult a lawyer before attending court.
Custody & Maintenance
As part of the mandatory agreement struck during divorce, both parties may agree to certain compensation agreements and custody deals, to ensure the quality of life for both parties and any dependents. These can range from maintenance agreements to custody arrangements.
As part of most divorces, there has to be an agreement regarding the custody of any children that are still dependent on you. In a joint declaration, you are able to add your personal wishes for custody in your mandatory agreement, although bear in mind that the final decision is still for the court to decide. In a unilateral divorce, the decision of custody is argued and concluded by the court. This also decides who will receive the family allowance.
Maintenance contributions in Switzerland
Although both parties are expected to support themselves after a divorce, maintenance contributions made to each other can be agreed upon or argued in court. The amount you will receive is based on the following criteria:
- The duties each party had during the marriage or partnership
- Age, health, and level of education
- Career prospects and the employability of each party
- Financial resources of each party
- Living costs of each party
Maintenance contributions for Swiss children
In addition to standard maintenance, the person who receives the majority of custody may also be due custody payments from their ex-partner in order to support the child’s development. If you fail to pay any custody contributions, you may face additional court proceedings and debt recovery.
Changing your name after divorce in Switzerland
Changing your name after a divorce is simple in Switzerland. You are able to revert your name back to your original surname at any time once divorce proceedings have been completed. To do so, you must make a declaration at the civil register office. The surname of any children cannot be changed officially unless for important reasons and any applicant must consult the registry office for more details.