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Old 15.01.2008, 03:31
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Divorce in Switzerland

Hello,
I worked in Switzerland for 3 years, but have worked in the US for the last 4 years. I am officially resident in the US and have no more ties with Switzerland. My wife remained in Switzerland and we separated (unofficially) when I left Switzerland. I have continued to support her and she still lives in the rented house that we occupied when we were together. I should have done something about divorce before, but I guess I never got around to it. However, the financial strain is getting too much so I worked out a potential settlement (she would get a house in the UK and maintenance) and discussed it with her. She seemed OK with it and I engaged a lawyer in the US to start things off and draw up a legal version of the proposal. So far so good, but US law requires that the other party is represented by a (independant) US lawyer. Although I have supplied her with web links to several good lawyers and asked her to pick one, she has dragged her feet for months. Today I received a summons to appear before a Swiss Justice of the Peace for a concilliation hearing pursuant to my wife's divorce petition.
My wife and I are both UK nationals. We have 2 adult children, but neither were born in Switzerland. My wife does not work (or have any financial support other than what I give her), but has a permit. My question is: can my wife initiate divorce in Switzerland with such tenuous links to the country? Also if she is divorced would she have any right to remain? I realise that these are legal questions so if anyone could recommend a good divorce lawyer in the Lausanne-Morges area I'd be really grateful. Even with the internet it is difficult to understand what the consequences would be (for alimony for example) of divorcing in Switzerland instead of the US. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks,
Dunroamin
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Old 15.01.2008, 09:40
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Re: Divorce in Switzerland

Of course she can initiate divorce proceedings in Switzerland. That is where she lives. You have initiated them in the US and you say you are a UK national. I don't see the difference.

Whether she can stay or not is related to her permit not her marital status. But as a UK national, you can assume she can stay with (almost) no problems.
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Old 15.01.2008, 14:24
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Re: Divorce in Switzerland

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Of course she can initiate divorce proceedings in Switzerland. That is where she lives. You have initiated them in the US and you say you are a UK national. I don't see the difference.

Whether she can stay or not is related to her permit not her marital status. But as a UK national, you can assume she can stay with (almost) no problems.
After 7 years here she can stay without any problems... After all she has managed to stay the last 4 years and there will be no effective change in status when her husband becomes her ex-husband - he is domiciled abroad.

As to can she initiate of course she can. Furthermore, there is no need to attend such proceedings although it is nice of them to invite you! IT would however make sense to be represented.

As far as divorce is concerned you should be aware that she could lay claim to assets you have in America and elsewhere in the world as you are still officially married according to Swiss law. Furthermore, she has a right to pension money, which of course begs the question - what happened to that when you left Switzerland.

While you can initiate a divorce from anywhere in the world the rules that apply vary depending on the jurisdiction that takes it on. If you were to divorce in Switzerland then alimony would be decided AND assets would be split 50/50...
To Alimony the level awarded when there are no children in the household is in comparison to the USA low. It is effectively decided as a pension dependent on the other spouse been unable to earn sufficient to live in the style to which they have become accustomed. There are 8 factors used to calculate this namely:
Who did what during the marriage
Length of marriage
Lifestyle during marriage
Age and health of couple
Income and welath of couple
Children - no longer relevant
Education and training effort required to restart work for the applicant
The split of the assets and the state of the pension fund of the couple.

Exactly how this will be split is down to the judge...
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Old 15.01.2008, 17:31
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Re: Divorce in Switzerland

(I think you meant to reply to the OP and not me).

I wrote "almost no problems" depending if she applied for the c permit (I assume she did, but who knows) and if she gets any money from the settlement (I assume she will, but if she gets no alimony and is only on a B permit? what are her rights? I guess she'd be asked to get a job, have enough assets, or leave, or no?).

The judge certainly can make the ex wife get a job. Of course, everything depends on the criteria Richard laid out. I've seen 50+ yr old women who have always been house wives, never ever worked and were told to go get a job!
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Old 15.01.2008, 17:37
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Re: Divorce in Switzerland

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Exactly how this will be split is down to the judge...
The central point I would take out of this is where is it of advantage for you to be divorced. If you initiated proceedings in the US and Swiss law doesn't suit you then you could point this out to the swiss authorities and they will generally keep their hands off the case. If you are better off getting divorced under Swiss (procedural) law then drop the US. I understand that the division of assets is fulfilled (in Switzerland) under the law of the country that you married in rather than Swiss law.

rgds.

Hans
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Old 15.01.2008, 22:26
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Re: Divorce in Switzerland

Many thanks to everyone who replied. There is a lot of good advice. I actually do want a fair settlement for my wife and I already offered her a 50/50 split of assets. This would give her enough to buy a small appartment in Switzerland outright. I also offered alimony which would amount to about 30% of my salary, so she would be well above the poverty line. This was all assessed as reasonable by my US lawyer. What I'm hearing is that it would probably be seen as reasonable in Switzerland too?
I think her major concern was that she would be kicked out of the country after the divorce, but again I seem to be hearing that this will not be a problem for her. I guess permit rules have moved on since I was in Switzerland.
I'd still appreciate the name of a good lawyer if anyone knows of one in the Lausanne area. Its difficult to find names at a distance. I'm not sure it was really "nice of them" to invite me to a concilliation hearing. I was told I would be fined CHF200 if I don't show up! I still feel I need a lawyer because nasty things can happen in legal situations when you're not present!
Thanks again
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Old 16.01.2008, 07:30
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Re: Divorce in Switzerland

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Many thanks to everyone who replied. There is a lot of good advice. I actually do want a fair settlement for my wife and I already offered her a 50/50 split of assets. This would give her enough to buy a small appartment in Switzerland outright. I also offered alimony which would amount to about 30% of my salary, so she would be well above the poverty line. This was all assessed as reasonable by my US lawyer. What I'm hearing is that it would probably be seen as reasonable in Switzerland too?
I think her major concern was that she would be kicked out of the country after the divorce, but again I seem to be hearing that this will not be a problem for her. I guess permit rules have moved on since I was in Switzerland.
I'd still appreciate the name of a good lawyer if anyone knows of one in the Lausanne area. Its difficult to find names at a distance. I'm not sure it was really "nice of them" to invite me to a concilliation hearing. I was told I would be fined CHF200 if I don't show up! I still feel I need a lawyer because nasty things can happen in legal situations when you're not present!
Thanks again
I would be aware of the fact that Swiss law takes a dim view of women who expect to live off their ex-husbands for the rest of their life. Whatever about the assets, if she has any working potential left in her you could be looking at paying alimony for a period of say 5 years and then she's on her own - so I wouldn't go about offering her anything. If you speak German the ZH courts website offers all the necessary information and excel sheets.

Hans
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Old 16.01.2008, 07:39
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Re: Divorce in Switzerland

Is there any reason why your wife does not work? Is she royalty or something? I am not a lawyer but why should you support her for rest of your life?
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Old 16.01.2008, 13:55
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Re: Divorce in Switzerland

Thanks again to all. Hans, thanks for this. My wife is 60 and I am 56, but over the last few years she has made no effort to support herself. She has never worked at any point in our marriage. Unfortuately I don't speak German (my French is passable and Italian is fluent), but it would be useful if anyone knows of a site where I could obtain some information on the workings of Swiss divorce laws.
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Old 16.01.2008, 14:30
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Re: Divorce in Switzerland

http://www.binational.ch/en/fragen/trennung.html

I would suggest checking the Ticino state web pages. I'm Zurich based so no idea on Lausanne lawyers

Good luck.

Hans
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Old 16.01.2008, 15:25
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Re: Divorce in Switzerland

At 60, I'm not sure she will be asked to get a job as she is close to retirement age (ironic isn't it?). But she could be told to down grade her life style, depending on the situation.
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Old 16.01.2008, 15:36
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Re: Divorce in Switzerland

Hmmm yeah 60 is old (even though 60 is the new 40). For some reason I though you guys were lot younger. I hope it works out.
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Old 16.01.2008, 16:44
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Re: Divorce in Switzerland

Thanks again. I have heard conflicting theories on "alimony for life" in Switzerland. In the US, alimony would end at retirement, then pension sharing would kick in. Is this also the case in Switzerland?
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Old 16.01.2008, 16:47
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Re: Divorce in Switzerland

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Thanks again to all. Hans, thanks for this. My wife is 60 and I am 56, but over the last few years she has made no effort to support herself. She has never worked at any point in our marriage. Unfortuately I don't speak German (my French is passable and Italian is fluent), but it would be useful if anyone knows of a site where I could obtain some information on the workings of Swiss divorce laws.
When my sis got divorced in Puidoux/VD she got a referral from the Irish Embassy. Can the UK one in Geneva not refer you a list of "Family Law" practitioners who speak English?
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Old 16.01.2008, 18:08
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Re: Divorce in Switzerland

I have a question, if that’s all right?

If both parties are UK nationals and they were married in the UK, why doesn’t UK law preside over the divorce proceedings?
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Old 21.01.2008, 16:11
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Re: Divorce in Switzerland

Hi Reb,
It could, but as neither of us live in the UK it is the least practical solution.
Cheers,
Ian
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Old 21.01.2008, 21:10
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Re: Divorce in Switzerland

It's a good point. Although it doesn't seem relevant for the op, it may be worth considering for those out there thinking about divorce. It all depends on what you want and how well you're getting along with your soon-to-be-ex.

In my days, it was a matter of either do it the Swiss way and spend thousands of francs on lawyers and spend time in court etc. and wait for two years go get it effective or do it in our home country and get it done for free and with no hassle or court attendance required what so ever and have it done in 3 weeks. Admittedly, Switzerland has become much more pragmatic on the issue in last couple of years but it may be worth checking all your options.


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I have a question, if that’s all right?

If both parties are UK nationals and they were married in the UK, why doesn’t UK law preside over the divorce proceedings?
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