We provide a step-by-step guide on how to go about getting a divorce in Switzerland, including how this affects your residency and citizenship status.The procedures and paperwork involved vary from canton to canton in Switzerland. Swiss separation and divorce consultancy Only1life AG, which provides guidance to its clients throughout all phases of a divorce, gives a step-by-step guide of divorce proceedings in Switzerland below. Translations for various terms are listed in the following format: English (German/French/Italian).
Only1life AG, headquartered in Pfäffikon (SZ) with a subsidiary in Munich, is a divorce and separation consultancy offering full-service support during a divorce, such as obtaining a lawyer, psychological counselling and more.
Conditions for divorce in SwitzerlandIn order to get a divorce (Scheidung/divorce/divorzio) in Switzerland, either you or your spouse must be a resident in Switzerland and have lived there for at least one year. The divorce application must be submitted to the court in the canton where one or both of you resides. Find a divorce court in Switzerland. In principle, the same processes apply for same-sex and heterosexual divorce and the dissolution of a marriage or a civil partnership. In practice, many cantons in Switzerland are very small; as same-sex registered partnerships (eingetragener Partnerschaft/lié par un partenariat enregistré/in unione domestica registrata) have only been recognised since 2007, some courts may not have encountered a same-sex divorce before. If both spouses file for divorce together, the process is fairly simple. The two must write a letter to the court stating they both want a divorce — no reasons must be given. Most courts require an agreement regarding any issues that commonly arise, such as joint property and custody of children. Getting professional legal advice on these issues is always preferable. If one spouse files for divorce without the agreement of the other, divorce can only take place after two years of separation, i.e. physically living at different addresses. This minimum separation period may be waived in certain circumstances, e.g. domestic abuse.
Processing a divorce in SwitzerlandIt typically takes two months from the time the documents are submitted to the court for the case to come before a judge. At any time during this process, the court may request further information.
Documents for a divorceThe court may request whatever evidence it deems necessary. You may be expected to provide a number of documentation in order to proceed with the divorce:
- residency permit information;
- family record document (Familienausweis/certificat de famille/certificato di famiglia) – you may not have this unless you got married or had a child in Switzerland;
- formal petition for divorce;
- agreement on how to deal with marital assets and/or children;
- prenuptial agreement, if one exists;
- income, property and tax information; and
- information about any children.
Standard division of propertyIn Switzerland, many spouses manage and maintain his or her own financial affairs. In this case, property brought into the marriage (e.g. savings, gifts, inheritance) and individual debts remain with the individual. Any joint property obtained or purchased during the marriage, such as furniture, real estate or securities, is divided equally. A prenuptial contract, which must be certified by a notary, can transform this to joint ownership, where some, most or all property is owned jointly and the partners may maintain separate estates. Rarely do married couples have completely separate estates with no joint assets. Under certain circumstances, a spouse may be expected to pay maintenance (also known as alimony) to his or her ex.-partner. This is assessed based on relative incomes, financial needs and roles in the household. This typically ends when their financial situation changes, e.g. upon remarriage, getting a job or when children become adults.
Residency and citizenship status after divorceIf your residency permit is in your spouse’s name and tied to their job, divorce may affect your right to live and work in Switzerland. If you have a permit B and a job in your own name, permit C, or already have Swiss citizenship, your residency and that of any minor children will not be affected. If your residency is through your spouse and you are not from the EU/EFTA states, you can apply for an extension of your residency provided you fulfil one of the following requirements:
- you have a job in Switzerland;
- you can otherwise support yourself (e.g. in retirement);
- you are integrated into the community (i.e. you can speak the language and/or are willing to work);
- you cannot return to your country of origin.