Author: Lawyer Enrico Germano
The Federal Statistical Office in Neuchâtel has published interesting data on divorces in Switzerland, comparing the last three years 2019-2020-2021. It turns out that there were 16’885 divorces in Switzerland in 2019, 16’210 in 2020 and 17’159 in 2021, showing that almost half of all divorces occur with 15 years or more of marriage behind them and involving 12’809 minors in 2019, 12’678 in 2020 and 13’809 in 2021.1
With regard to the Canton of Ticino,2 with a population of 351’491 in 2021 (remember that the total Swiss population is approx. 8’700’0003), there were 723 divorces in 2019, 687 in 2020 and 705 in 2021.4
With regard to divorce at the petition of one spouse, the cantonal data on civil cases at the Courts in Ticino show that there were 397 divorces pending in 2019, 400 in 2020 and 424 in 2021, while those introduced in 2019 were 318, in 2020 317 and in 2021 289.
In the Canton of Ticino, cases relating to persons and families law (which include measures of protection of the marital unions, separations, divorces5) are heard by the judge of the place of domicile of one or other spouse, following an ad hoc procedure.6
The main difference between separation and divorce is that with separation the husband and wife are still considered spouses, whereas with divorce the marriage bond is permanently dissolved.
Pursuant to Article 114 of the Swiss Civil Code, “a spouse may petition for divorce if, at the time the petition is filed or at the time the divorce request is replaced by a divorce petition, the spouses have lived apart for at least two years”.
Article 115 of the Swiss Civil Code also provides that “prior to the expiry of the two-year period, a spouse may petition for divorce if the marriage has irretrievably broken down for compelling reasons for which he or she is not responsible”. The jurisprudence of the Swiss courts interprets each situation that arises on a case-by-case basis, but certainly by way of example, cases of domestic violence, physical violence, systematic surveillance of one spouse by the other, repeated denigration in front of common acquaintances of one spouse by the other, and the commission of serious offences are considered compelling reasons.7
It is also emphasized that at the level of individual pension provision, separation ensures privileges in the event of the spouse’s premature death as if one were in constant marriage, and during separation, the years of pension contributions are cumulated. It may therefore be the case that compared to divorce; the economically weaker spouse prefers legal separation.
The Canton of Ticino also holds the national record for divorce rates in Switzerland, tied with the Canton of Jura.8 The news appeared on 30 January 2022 on the website of the radio and television station of Italian-speaking Switzerland (RSI), where it emerged that the municipality of Bodio, with a population of 950, in the district of Leventina, had recorded record divorce rates in 2020, with nine separations and only one marriage, making it the worst statistic in Switzerland.9
In fact, about two out of five marriages in Switzerland end in divorce10, which will inevitably have many consequences not only on the personal life of both former spouses, but also on the family life and on the economic life, and will also affect the children of the former couple. The repercussions of a divorce may also have direct repercussions on the right of residence for foreigners in Switzerland.
7Commentaire Romand, Code Civil, Helbing Lichtenhahn, ad art. 115 CC, pag. 793