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Separation and divorce

You are married and you wish to separate? There are several ways to do this: you can resort to a separation (suspension of the joint household) or petition for divorce. Find out all the useful information about these two solutions and the steps to take at the Tribunal de première instance.

You wish to suspend your joint household?

Suspension of the joint household: living apart without divorce

Suspension of joint household allows to provisionally preserve the social and matrimonial benefits resulting from the marriage, and to officially start the 2-year period at the end of which the divorce can be requested by one spouse.
 

Suspending joint household life: what are the possibilities?
 

  • You can choose to settle your separation without going to court.
     
  • When you and your spouse agree, you can have an agreement ratified together by the Tribunal de première instance, which officially sets out the terms and consequences of the suspension of your joint household life (allocation of housing, matters relating to the minor child or children (residence and visitation rights), maintenance contribution(s), etc.).
     
  • In the event of a conflictual separation, you can apply unilaterally to the court to request measures for the protection of the marital union. The judge will pronounce the separation by court order and will mainly settle:
    • The allocation of the family home and furniture
    • The allocation of residence of the minor child or children, the modalities for exercising visiting rights
    • The determination of the maintenance paid to any child or children and the other spouse

 

How do I bring a conflict before the court?
 

Step 1: make your request

You should prepare your application in written form and send it to the Tribunal de première instance by mail or by dropping it off directly at the court desk or the Greffe universel, in duplicate (in triplicate if you have a minor child or children). It must be written in French and signed.

You can also use the standard form provided by the Federal Office of Justice.

Your request must include the following details:

  • What you want to obtain (separation, allocation of the home, concerning the children (residence and visitation rights), maintenance contributions, etc.)
  • The facts related to your request

You can act on your own, appeal to a lawyer or a legal advice service.
 

Step 2: to pay an advance on costs

You have to pay an advance on costs. The amount can vary from Fr. 200.- to Fr. 2'000.-, depending on the complexity of the case and the applications (amount of the maintenance contribution(s) and other measures).

If your resources are insufficient to ensure the defence of your interests, you can request legal aid.

 

Step 3: attend the hearing

Usually the court will summon you to a hearing where you and your spouse appear in person.

The court then tries to bring you to an agreement. If you fail to do so, the court will make a decision on the various measures to be taken (e.g. separation, allocation of the home, matters concerning the children (residence and visiting rights), maintenance contribution(s), etc.).

The court can set the date of separation of the spouses, which will trigger the 2-year period at the end of which the spouses will be allowed to file for divorce unilaterally.

If you are in a conflict over residence or the exercise of visiting rights to your minor children, the court may decide to request a report from the parental Separation assessment and support Service (SEASP).

The court may also decide, depending on the case, to hear the minor child or children personally.

 

Step 4: receive the judgment

The judge's decision is communicated to you by mail, if necessary through your counsel (lawyer, legal advice service).

Do you wish to divorce?

Divorce and its consequences

Be careful, if you do not agree, the divorce cannot be pronounced before you have lived separately for 2 years (except in very exceptional cases).
 

What are the main effects of divorce?

  • Allocation of the family home
  • Determination of the maintenance contribution paid to one of the spouses
  • Division of the occupational pensions' assets (2nd pillar)
  • Division of the marital property between the spouses (marital property)

If you have a minor child or children, the divorce judge also resolves the following issues:

  • Allocation of parental responsibility
  • Allocation of residence of the minor child or children and regulation of the modalities for exercising visiting rights
  • Division of the parenting credit (AVS)
  • Determination of the maintenance contribution paid to the minor child or children

The joint or shared parental responsibility is the rule and the alternate residence arrangement (e.g. one week at each parent's home) is often pronounced.

 

The different types of divorce proceedings

There are 2 types of divorce proceedings:

  • Divorce by joint request, if you both wish to divorce:
    • With a comprehensive agreement, when you agree on all the effects of the divorce
    • With a partial agreement, if you have agreed to divorce, but have not been able to agree on all the terms of the divorce
       
  • Divorce at the petition of one spouse, when only one of the spouses wishes to divorce

Divorce by joint request - steps
 

You agree with your spouse to divorce.
 

Step 1: make your request

You should prepare your application in written form to the Tribunal de première instance by mail or by dropping it off at the court desk or at the Greffe universel. It must be written in French and signed by you and your spouse or by your legal counsel.

You can also use the standard form provided by the Federal Office of Justice.

Your application must be accompanied by a comprehensive agreement that sets out the effects of the divorce, including the situation of the children:

  • The allocation of the family home
  • The matters concerning the children (parental responsibility, residence and visiting rights)
  • The maintenance contribution paid to the child or children
  • The division of the parenting credit (AVS)
  • The maintenance contribution paid to the spouse
  • The liquidation of the marital property regime
  • The division of the occupational pensions' assets (2nd pillar)

You can act on your own, appeal to a lawyer or a legal advice service.
 

Step 2: to pay an advance on costs

You have to pay an advance on costs which amounts to Fr. 600.- (art. 29 RTFMC).

If your resources are insufficient to ensure the defence of your interests, you can request legal aid.

 

Step 3: attend the hearing

The court summons you and your spouse and hears you separately to ensure that you have filed your petition and entered into your agreement thoughtfully and willingly.

The court may also ask you about the content of your agreement, especially for points that concern the children.

If there are no more contentious issues, the court will grant the divorce and ratify the agreement on the effects of the divorce.

 

Step 4: receive the judgment

The judge's decision is communicated to you by mail, if necessary, through your counsel (lawyer, legal advice service).

Divorce at the petition of one spouse – steps
 

You want to divorce, but your spouse is refusing to do so.
 

You can file for divorce on a unilateral basis, especially if:

  • You have lived 2 years apart at the time of filing your claim

Step 1: make your request

You should prepare your application in written form and send it to the Tribunal de première instance by mail or by dropping it off directly at the court desk or the Greffe universel, in duplicate (in triplicate if you have a minor child or children). It must be written in French and signed.

Your request must include the following details:

  • What you want to obtain (divorce, allocation of the home, matters concerning the children, maintenance contributions paid to the minor child or children as well as to you, division of the parenting credit (AVS), liquidation of the marital property regime, division of the occupational pensions' assets (2nd pillar))
  • The facts related to your request, by providing as much supporting documentation as possible to substantiate them.

Step 2: to pay an advance on costs

You have to pay an advance on costs to pay an advance of at least Fr. 1'000.- , the amount of which varies according to the complexity of the case and the applications (amount of the maintenance contribution(s) and other measures) (art. 30 RTFMC).

If your resources are insufficient to ensure the defence of your interests, you can request legal aid.

 

Step 3: attending the hearing

The court summons you and your spouse to a conciliation hearing particularly in an attempt to reach an agreement on the effects of the divorce.

If there is no agreement on the effects of the divorce, the proceedings will continue and the court will give your spouse the opportunity to express his/her views in writing on your request.

If you are in dispute about residence of your minor child or children, or about visiting rights, the court may decide to request a report from the parental separation assessment and support Service (SEASP).

The court may appoint a deputy to represent the child (representative deputyship).

See this question/answer

 

Step 4: receive the judgment

The judge's decision is communicated to you by mail, if necessary, through your counsel (lawyer, legal advice service).

Contacts

Address

Address

Rue de l'Athénée 6-8
1205 Genève

Contact details

Desk

9h-12h / 13h30-16h30

Telephone

8h-12h / 13h30-16h30

Filing applications of ex-parte interim measures and seizures to the Tribunal de première instance

Please give prior notice to the registry at T. +41 22 327 66 80
The desk is open until 17h at the latest
(For ex-parte interim measures, seizures and protective letters only)

Mailing address

Tribunal de première instance
Case postale 3736
1211 Genève 3

Questions/answers

You can bring a case to the Tribunal de première instance of Geneva if you or/and your spouse are domiciled in Geneva.

No, you are not obliged. However, it is highly recommended, especially if you have a disagreement with your spouse and the case is complex.

You can access the list of lawyers and legal advice services in Geneva.

The court decides, depending on the case, whether the children are heard in person.

At the end of the last hearing, the court may ask you to choose between 2 types of decisions:

  • A judgment without the grounds: the decision will include only the conclusions, i.e. the solution of the dispute.
  • A judgment stating the grounds: the document will present the reasons that led the judge to render his/her decision.

A judgment stating the grounds is more expensive than a decision without grounds.

See also

Tribunal de protection de l'adulte et de l'enfant

The Tribunal de protection de l'adulte et de l'enfant ensures the protection of people throughout their lives, from childhood to adulthood up to their succession. It intervenes when no satisfactory solution has been found for the person concerned within the family, with relatives or any other institution that can provide assistance.

Legal aid

You are involved in legal proceedings and do not have the necessary means to pay for lawyers’ fees or legal costs?

Legal advice service and legal counsels

The Judiciary Power does not provide legal advice. You can contact the following associations and organizations.