When a child is born, the mother's husband is automatically considered to be the father. In legal terms, this is referred to as the ‹presumption of paternity›. If the mother is not married, the father must officially acknowledge paternity of the child.
It is not possible to acknowledge paternity if another man is already considered the legal father, i.e. if the mother is married, if another man has already acknowledged paternity of the child, or if the child has been adopted.
Please note that to acknowledge paternity you do not have to prove that you are the child's biological father. However, you commit an offence if you acknowledge paternity of a child when you know that you are not the biological father.
Paternity can be acknowledged either before or after the child is born.
To do so, the father must go in person to any civil register office in Switzerland. This office will tell you what documents you need to present. As a rule, an identity document and a certificate of residence will suffice. You do not have to submit the results of a paternity test.
If you are a foreign national or you live abroad, you must acknowledge paternity at the Swiss register office at your child's place of birth or residence, or at the mother's place of origin or residence.
Having acknowledged paternity, the father acquires both rights and obligations in respect of the child, specifically:
He is officially considered the child's father from the time of birth
He may request joint parental responsibility
He has an obligation to support the child financially
The child may claim their right of inheritance (this works both ways)
The father may decide with the mother whether to give their first child together their father's or their mother's surname. All other children that they have together must have the same surname.
If the mother is a foreign national and the father is Swiss, acknowledged children gain Swiss nationality from their father.
The register office in question charges a fee of CHF 75 for completing an acknowledgement of paternity.
The certificate acknowledging paternity itself that is issued by the register office costs CHF 30 (plus postage, where applicable).
Foreign authorities do not automatically notify the Swiss authorities of acknowledgements of paternity registered within their territories. It is up to the father to have the foreign acknowledgement of paternity recognised in Switzerland. However, you do not need to do this if you have acknowledged paternity of your child in Germany, Austria or Italy, because Switzerland has signed agreements with these countries under which the information is exchanged automatically.
Contact the Swiss embassy or consulate in the country where you live directly with the original certificate acknowledging paternity that you were issued by the country in question. The Swiss representation will tell you about the procedure to follow and any additional documents you need.
Contact the civil register office where you wish to complete the acknowledgement of paternity to find out more about what it involves.