Aug 28, 2023.

Two out of five Swiss marriages end in divorce. When couples separate, this not only has an emotional impact on a family, but also has financial and organisational consequences. Even if the separation is amicable, many questions and uncertainties arise. Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding divorce law.

The consequences of divorce and what you need to consider

Divorce affects almost every area of life. It’s not just your marital status that changes, but also your housing and financial situation. When a married couple go their separate ways, there is a lot to consider. Especially when children are involved.



Procedure: how to get a divorce


Amicable: if both parties agree, they can jointly file for divorce at the district court in their place of residence. There is no need to engage lawyers. It is also important to have a divorce agreement in which both sides describe how they would like to manage their matrimonial property, custody of any children and their housing situation. Legal protection insurance provides assistance when drawing up this agreement – provided the couple are in agreement about all the consequences of their divorce. At the end of this process, the decree nisi is issued, setting out the consequences for everyone involved. In most cases, the court will abide by the couple’s suggestions. An amicable divorce can then be completed after just a few weeks.


Divorce proceedings: if your partner does not want a divorce, you must initiate divorce proceedings. You will need proof that you have been separated for at least two years. If there are justifiable grounds as to why this period is unreasonable, the marriage may be dissolved earlier. If you have any questions, the court, lawyers or your legal protection insurance are there to help.


Children: custody, guardianship and family names


Custody: under Swiss law, parents always have joint custody of their children – even if they are separated or divorced. In rare cases, custody may be granted to just one parent, for example, if a child is at risk.


Guardianship: in the case of sole guardianship, the child lives with one parent following the divorce, while the other has visitation rights. This version is the most common in Switzerland. In the case of shared guardianship, the mother and father take turns looking after their child, i.e. the child lives with both parents.


Surnames: if you want to revert to your maiden name following your divorce, you can record this at the Registry Office at any time. Following a divorce, parents can only change their child’s surname if the child is under the age of 12. Children above this age are considered to be capable of making sound judgements and must agree to the change. Divorced parents and their children generally keep their family name.



Money: how to deal with the financial consequences


Division: it’s no surprise that there are often disputes regarding money following a divorce, as one household becomes two and living costs increase for both parties. If you have not entered into a marriage contract, you are deemed to be subject to joint ownership of acquired property. In this case, the assets accumulated by the couple during their marriage are divided equally. The same applies to pension funds – this is referred to as pension adjustment.


Maintenance: your ex-partner is only entitled to maintenance if they are unable to provide for themselves due to their childcare obligations. This maintenance is temporary and will cease if they remarry.
Children must be financially supported by their parents until they come of age or have completed their secondary education. The parent who does not have guardianship of the children pays a monthly maintenance contribution.



Insurance: what you need to consider following a divorce


Vehicles: if one of the divorcees buys their own car, they will need new vehicle insurance. But who “inherits” the no-claims discount from the existing policy? The person who used the car the most during the marriage is entitled to this.


Private life insurance: Pillar 3 is in the name of a specific person, but is transferable. Following your divorce, contact your insurer if you want to change the beneficiary. 


Third-party liability: as long as a family lives together in the same household, one policy covers everyone. When a person moves out, they need their own liability insurance.


Fortuna Legal Protection Insurance – a subsidiary of Generali Switzerland – has been helping customers to access justice for 50 years. During this time, it has grown significantly and now applies the expertise and experience of over 100 employees in 31 branches of law.