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Divorce - procedure

If you want to get a divorce, you must submit an application to the court. You can file a joint application if you and your partner agree to divorce or either partner can file a unilateral application.

Joint petition

It is easiest if both spouses agree to divorce and file a joint application:

  • It is not necessary to explain the grounds for the divorce.
  • Make an agreement on how to deal with consequences of the divorce (recommendation to the judge on custody of the children, maintenance payments, the division of property and assets and legal fees, etc.) The agreement should normally be drawn up before a notary, although this is not a legal requirement.  
  • You must present the agreement along with a written petition to the court. Some courts provide pre-printed forms but you can also write a letter signed by both partners saying that you want to divorce.
  • Depending on your situation, you will need to provide various documents along with the divorce agreement and petition. The court will inform you of the required documents.

Divorce agreement template

Unilateral petition

  • If the spouses do not agree to divorce, either one may make a unilateral application if they have lived apart for a minimum of two years.
  • In exceptional cases, a divorce can be granted before the two years are over if it is  unreasonable to expect one of the spouses to continue in the marriage, for example in the case of physical abuse.

Which court has jurisdiction?

You live in Switzerland

Contact the competent court in your or your partner’s place of residence. The courts are organised differently from canton to canton. Ask your canton’s judicial authority or a lawyer if you are not sure which court to contact.

Note: If both of you consent to a divorce, you can only file for divorce in the place where you live if you have lived in Switzerland for at least one year. Otherwise, the petition for divorce must be submitted in the place where your spouse lives.

You and your spouse are Swiss and live abroad

You can only get a divorce in Switzerland if it is impossible or unreasonable to submit the petition for divorce in abroad in the place where one or both of the spouses live. In this case, the petition for divorce may be filed in the place of origin of one of the spouses.

Cantonal judicial authorities

Change of civil status

The judge will inform the individuals’ communes of residence and origin of the divorce. The communes of origin then record the divorce in the civil register.