Living together as an unmarried couple in Switzerland, How Does it Work?

The legal rights a married couple Living in Switzerland benefit from are not the same social and legal rights that two people in partnership, living together and not married would have. However, by signing a cohabitation agreement would ensure your rights as a couple.

As cohabitation is not recognised in law, you and your partner are to a large extent treated as individuals – and not as a married couple or as a couple in a registered partnership.

Cohabitation has no effect on the surname of either partner. Children from previous relationships keep would keep their original surnames. Children you have together take the mother’s surname. Joint custody of the children means they can be given their father’s name (the parents must submit a joint application to the civil register office).

Cohabiting has no effect on citizenship applications nor Old-age and survivor’s insurance and occupational pensions. The old-age and survivor’s insurance of each partner would be calculated separately. A partner who does not work can make minimal payments to retain their right to old-age and survivor’s insurance in Switzerland. If there is a dissolution of the relationship with your partner, you have no right to claim half of the contributions paid into pension funds and old-age insurance.

Property ownership in Switzerland can be complicated at the best of times. There are various types of property ownership: individual ownership, ownership of part of a multi-floor building and shared ownership. The financial participation of both parties is recorded in the land register. It is advisable bbefore you buy a property together; a written agreement should be signed. This agreement will confirm from the outset who will move out if you decide to terminate the relationship.

Taxes in Switzerland are to be completed individually when you and your partner live together as an unmarried couple. You each are required to complete your own tax return.

When the parents are unmarried, they must make a joint declaration in order to establish joint parental authority. The parents must declare that they:

  • agree to share responsibility for the childd or children
  • have agreed on residence for the child, on personal relations or each parent’s share of childcare duties and on child maintenance contributions.

When the parents are unmarried, they must make a joint declaration in order to establish joint parental authority. The parents must declare that they:

  • agree to share responsibility for the childd or children
  • have agreed on residence for the child, on personal relations or each parent’s share of childcare duties and on child maintenance contributions.

The declaration can be made at the civil register office at the time of recognition of the child, or later at the Child Protection Authority.The death of a partner is always tragic and during this time only made more difficult if things are stalled in probate.

  • Inheritance: When your partner dies, you do not automatically inherit anything. There are limits on the provisions your partner can make for you in their will because Swiss inheritance law reserves certain proportions of an individual’s estate for close family members such as children and parents.
  • Inheritance tax: If your deceased partner leaves you something in their will, you do not have access to the beneficial tax rates offered to close relations in most cantons.
  • Widow/widower’s pension: Unmarried partners do not receive any widow/widower’s pension from the old-age and survivor’s insurance or accident insurance.
  • Many pension schemes only offer a limited right to a survivor’s pension to unmarried partners.

The cohabitation agreement can be a preferred option as opposed to a Registered partnership. A registered partnership is only open to same-sex couples. Heterosexual couples who do not want to get married and same-sex couples who do not want to enter a registered partnership, but who still want to ensure legal rights for their partner can draw up a cohabitation agreement.

The cohabitation agreement is not regulated in law therefore it is advisable to draw up a written agreement. This does not need to be witnessed by a notary if it does not contain any provisions relating to inheritance.

Contents of the agreement can vary, below is a basic outline. The agreement should include the following points:

  • What belongs to whom (make an inventory).
  • Property purchases: Are you buying the property together as a joint purchase?
  • Who gets to stay in the home you shared as a couple if you break up, and what is the notice period?
  • How are you going to split the costs of running the household?
  • How high are the monthly maintenance contributions that the higher earner will pay to the other person if you split up?
  • How will you split your assets and how will you divide up contributions paid into old-age and survivor’s insurance and pensions schemes?
  • Death: Are you going to take out a life insurance policy that will benefit the surviving partner if the other partner dies?
  • Children: Decide

Living together as an unmarried couple does not automatically give the partner rights but given some prior planning and information can provide a level safety and comfort in these circumstances. It is always advised to consult with an expert.

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