Civil status

Registering a birth

Steps to take

The birth of a child must be registered to the civil registry of the place of birth within 3 days of delivery. In the event of a birth in a hospital, the latter takes care of registering the birth. In the event of a birth at home, the father, mother, midwife, doctor or any person present during the birth must register it to the civil registry. If the parents are not registered at the civil registry, the competent service will require additional documents to ensure the identity of the parents. After these formalities, the parents can request a birth certificate from the civil registry.

The birth certificate can be ordered upon receipt of the birth notification, transmitted by the civil registry which registered the event, which is subject to a fee of CHF 30 (plus postage).
 
When the birth occurred abroad and must be registered in Switzerland, the Swiss representation of the place of the event will be able to help you with the formalities.
 
The birth of children whose parents do not have Swiss citizenship can also be registered at the embassy or consulate of the country of origin. The Département fédéral des affaires étrangères (DFAE) draws up a list of foreign representations in Switzerland, and Swiss representations abroad.
 
Birth creates a legal relationship between the child and the mother and her husband.
 
When the parents are not married, the father is obliged to recognise the child if he wants to be officially and legally recognised as the child’s father.
 
Information concerning the birth of a child
 
Consult the list of  foreign representations in switzerland

Acknowledgement of paternity

Acknowledgment of paternity is a legal act by which a man acknowledges being the father of a child. If the parents of the child are not married together, the filiation (legal relationship) between the father and the child must be established by a legal act.

Acknowledgement of paternity takes place by declaration before the civil registrar. As soon as acknowledgement of paternity is recorded, the bonds of filiation govern the relationship between the father and the child, i.e. the obligation of maintenance until the child reaches the age of majority, or even until the end of the child’s education, reciprocal rights in matters of succession and mutual duties in matters of assistance.
 
For the recognition of a child to be valid, the following conditions must be met:
 

  • Only the biological father can recognise the child. The author of the recognition must be capable of discernment.
  • If the author of the recognition is minor or prohibited, the consent of his parents or guardian is necessary.
 
Recognition can also be established if the father of the child is married to another woman. Recognition can take place before or after birth.
When the mother is married at the time of the birth of her child, the law provides for a presumption of paternity in favour of the husband. If the latter is not the father of the child, this bond of filiation must be broken before recognition can be carried out. To this end, a disavowal procedure must be brought before the competent court.
 
If the father refuses to recognise the child, the mother or the child must bring an action for paternity, so that paternity can be established by judgment.
 
The act of recognition is an irrevocable declaration. Recognition establishes filiation between the natural father and the child. The recognised child has in particular the right to inherit from his father and has the right to alimony.
 
Start a paternity acknowledgement procedure

Marriage

The right to marry is enshrined in the Federal Constitution. It is the civil registry office which is responsible for its execution. Switzerland also recognises marriages contracted abroad.

Conditions

For a marriage to take place, the engaged couple, whether Swiss or not, must meet the following conditions:

  • Being at least 18 years old.
  • Being capable of discernment.
  • Not being already married.
  • Having the permission of the legal representative if one of the two people is under guardianship.
  • Not having any fraternity (including half-sisters and half-brothers), maternity or paternity (including in the event of adoption) or grand paternity relationship.
  • When one of the future spouses is not a Swiss citizen, he or she must provide proof that he or she is authorised to reside in Switzerland until the marriage.

However, you cannot get married if:

  • You are already married or bound by a registered partnership.
  • You are not capable of discernment.
  • You are closely related to your partner.
  • The marriage is contracted to evade the provisions on the admission of foreigners.
  • The marriage is not voluntary and you marry under duress.

Marriage procedure

To be able to get married, you must submit a marriage request to the civil registry office.
 
Centre administratif de l’état civil
021 557 07 07

You will then need to complete the form “Open a preparatory marriage procedure”, which is delivered by the civil status office following the couple’s request. Depending on the situation, you will have to submit different documents (pay attention to the information from the civil registry office). After submitting the documents, confirm in person at the civil registry office that you meet all the conditions. In the event of constraint on your free consent, assistance services exist. Forcing someone to marry is a criminal offence and the marriage can be annulled.
 
More information
Domestic violence
 
You are concerned by forced marriage
Free consultation for people in a situation of forced marriage or facing pressure from those around them to start or end a relationship, advice to professionals who take care of these people.
 
Bureau cantonal pour l’intégration des étrangers et la prévention du racisme (BCI)
Rue du Valentin 10 | Changement d’adresse prévu en 2023.
Se référer au Portail Bienvenue.
021 316 49 59
[email]info.integration@vd.ch[/email]
 
The civil registry office then examines your request and informs you in writing whether you can marry. The marriage must take place within 3 months of the end of the preparatory procedure. The ceremonies take place in the wedding halls of the canton or directly in the premises of the civil registry office if they take place directly after the closing of the wedding preparatory procedure.
 
They can also be held in “exceptional places”, duly listed (refer to the civil registry website). Two major witnesses capable of discernment must be present. If the engaged couple do not understand the language of the civil registry office where the marriage is celebrated, they must use an interpreter and bear the related costs.
 
During the ceremony, the two fiancés and the two witnesses sign the confirmation of marriage, prepared in advance. At the end of the wedding, the spouses receive the family certificate.
 
The emoluments for the civil marriage generally vary between CHF 300 and 500. Special wishes, such as a celebration on a Saturday or outside the official Lausanne wedding hall, incur additional costs. The fees can also have a higher cost, especially in the presence of foreign civil status documents to be authenticated. You can also get married religiously, but only after the civil ceremony.

Procedures required once the marriage is pronounced

You must announce your change of marital status to the authorities, your employer, the tax authorities, your bank, insurance companies, etc. The new marital status must also be indicated when concluding new contracts.

You must also adapt the official documents when your name changes with the marriage. In particular, you must renew the following documents:

  • Passport and identity card.
  • AVS certificate.
  • Driving licence and circulation permit.
  • Bank cards and credit cards.
  • Deed of origin.

Keeping or changing your surname after marriage

Each of the spouses retains their name and place of origin. The fiancés can however declare that they want to use the celibate name of the man or the woman as their common surname. The child of married parents receives either the common surname or – if the parents have a different surname – the single surname that the parents chose as their surname at the time of marriage or at the time of birth if they did not marry in Switzerland and did not have to make this choice at the time of marriage. When parental authority is exercised exclusively by one of the parents, the child acquires the celibate name of the latter.

Note, however, that if the parents are married, parental authority is exercised jointly. In addition, if it is not the first child, the following children will necessarily bear the family name chosen for the first child, under the principle of sibling unity.
 
It should be noted that, in customary documents such as identity papers, it is possible to use a marriage name with a hyphen by joining the single surname to the name of the spouse.
 
Furthermore, in the event of the dissolution of the marriage, at the end of divorce proceedings or following the death of one of the spouses, the spouse who changed their name at the time of marriage may declare at any time to the civil registry that they wish to resume their single name.

Choose between the single names of the spouses

Procedure in case of death

Any death must be registered within 2 days to the civil registry of the place of the event. When the deceased person is of foreign nationality, it is up to their relatives to register the death to the authorities of their country of origin. In the event of death occurring abroad, the death must be notified to the Swiss civil status authorities via the Swiss representation of the place of death.

In the event of the death of one of the spouses, the spouse who changed their name at the conclusion of the marriage may declare at any time to the civil registrar that they wish to return to their single name.
 
Depending on where the deceased person resided, it is also necessary to notify the municipal authorities. Especially since many Swiss municipalities offer free services for funerals (burials, cremation, funeral procession, etc.): it may therefore be wise to inquire beforehand in order to be able to benefit from these services free of charge.
 
Also note that it is possible to make a request to the bank of the deceased person to release funds in order to pay the expenses related to the funeral. Most establishments block accounts at the time of death (for inheritance tax purposes), but some banks may allow funds to be released.
 
Notification and registration of a death
 
A deceased person must be transported to a place of preservation. In general, following the “confirmation of death” issued by the civil registry, the municipal authority authorises the transport and burial of the deceased. The transport is carried out by a funeral director authorised by the Département de la Santé et l’action sociale (DSAS). The transport can also precede the notification to the authorities. In Switzerland, funerals must take place between 48 and 98 hours after death. Depending on the region, funerals can be organised up to 5 days after death, when the body is stored in a refrigerated room.
 
Switzerland hosts a wide variety of funeral rites. The organisation of the funeral will therefore greatly depend on the type of ceremony chosen, but whatever its form, the chosen ceremony will require certain basic logistics:

  • Transfer of the body.
  • Choice of place, date and time of the ceremony.
  • List of people to invite.
  • Funeral announcement (e.g. with a mortuary notice).
It is usual to call on a funeral director to be accompanied in these steps.
 
In fact, whether private or public (official), funeral directors can support you very early in the process and help you with administrative procedures as well as with the organisation of the funeral. They have a coordination role between the family of the deceased and the various intervening entities and can also provide services, such as mortuary washing and care of the body. The employees of funeral companies who carry out mortuary care ensure that it is carried out with respect for the dignity of the deceased person and in keeping with their cultural and religious traditions. Funeral directors are usually willing to arrange a tribute that is meaningful to you. Indeed, whatever your needs or desires in terms of funerals and whatever your beliefs, you will be able to find a funeral director whose services will be perfectly adapted to your expectations and who will be able to meet them with great attention and care, without judgment.
 
You will find the list of different funeral directors as well as more information on this subject on the website of the Direction Générale de la Santé.
 
Direction générale de la santé
Office du médecin cantonal
Avenue des Casernes 2
1014 Lausanne
021 316 18 00

Contact and order of civil status documents

For orders of civil status documents (birth certificates, death certificates, etc.), you can order them on the canton’s website or possibly call the administrative centre. They will then be sent to you by post.

Centre administratif de l’état civil
021 557 07 07

Advice

Do not forget to announce these changes also to the consulate or the embassy of your country of origin.