Procedures, documents required or matrimonial regimes: this page presents all the useful information for people wishing to celebrate a civil marriage in Geneva. It explains any legal impacts of the marriage, in particular concerning surnames, children, nationality or taxes.
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Marriage is defined as the legal union of a man and a woman celebrated in accordance with the forms of civil legislation. It is governed by matrimonial law, which is an element of family law and comprises all the rules determining the relations between spouses. The fundamental rules are set forth in articles 90 et seq. of the Swiss Civil Code.
Information from the civil registry office
Before getting married, fiancés are invited to contact the civil registry office, either separately or simultaneously, to obtain information concerning the marriage procedure and conditions. This office provides all the necessary information while indicating the documents required, the preconditions for a marriage and its impacts.
Civil marriage procedure
The marriage procedure is divided into two steps: the preparatory procedure and the marriage celebration.
During the preparatory procedure for a marriage, the fiancés submit a marriage application to the civil registry office, accompanied by several official documents.
This procedure can take several weeks or several months (in particular if foreign documents need to be legalised). Consequently, fiancés are advised not to set a date for the wedding celebration before the preparatory procedure is complete. The registry office declines all liability for costs resulting from the cancellation or postponement of the celebration.
Civil marriage celebration
Once the preparatory procedure is complete, the civil registry office notifies the fiancés of the legal deadlines for celebration their marriage. The marriage celebration can take place no earlier than 10 days and no later than 3 months after notification that the preparatory procedure is complete.
If the celebration is held in the City of Geneva, it can take place from Monday to Friday and on certain Saturdays for citizens or residents of Geneva. All information concerning the celebration as well as the possible dates and times for a celebration in the City of Geneva can be found on the following procedures page: Celebrating a marriage.
Conditions to be eligible to marry
To be married, fiancés must meet the following legal conditions:
- be aged 18 and be capable of discernment;
- prove that any previous marriage or partnership has been annulled or dissolved;
- not be directly related to one another (father, mother, grandparents, children) or be half-brother or half-sister, i.e. same father or same mother, regardless of whether kinship is based on lineage or adoption;
- fiancés who are not of Swiss nationality must establish the legality of their residence in Switzerland during the preparatory marriage or partnership procedure. In the absence of a valid residence permit, the civil registry office will be obliged to refuse to celebrate the marriage.
Choice of surname and identity documents
Since 1 January 2013, spouses have, in principle, retained their own surname, but they can also opt to adopt the maiden name of one or other spouse as a common family name.
If the surname is changed following a marriage, you must renew several official documents, including your identity documents.
Marriage, nationality and right of citizenship
Marriage has no impact on the right of citizenship. Married people retain their own right to cantonal and municipal citizenship.
A marriage between a Swiss citizen and a foreigner allows the latter to obtain facilitated naturalisation under the conditions stipulated in article 27 of the Federal Nationality Act and under those conditions which took effect on 1 January 2018 as stipulated in the new article 21 of the Nationality Act.
Foreigners who acquire Swiss nationality by means of facilitated naturalisation obtain the right of citizenship of their spouse.
Marriage and children
When a child is born, the mother’s spouse is considered to be the father, unless proof to the contrary is provided. The parents automatically have joint parental authority.
Marriage and taxes
The respective incomes and assets of the spouses added together must be declared in a joint tax declaration. The spouses are not taxed together from the date of the marriage, but for the entire fiscal year.
The matrimonial regime is a set of provisions governing and sharing a couple’s assets, regardless of whether they are married or have concluded a registered partnership. It also determines the destination of the couple’s assets in the event of a divorce or dissolution of the registered partnership.
Married couples are automatically, and without a contract, legally subject to the matrimonial regime of joint ownership of acquired property.
A marriage contract, signed before a notary before or after celebrating a civil marriage, allows the spouses to choose one of the two matrimonial regimes provided for under matrimonial law: separation of property and community of property.
Recognising foreign marriages
A marriage duly contracted abroad is recognised in Switzerland if it complies with the principles of Swiss law.
To have this recognised in Switzerland, it must be announced after the ceremony to the Swiss representation in the country concerned. The Swiss diplomatic representation checks the accuracy of the documents, legalises them and, if necessary, translates them into an official language of the Swiss Confederation (subject to payment of a fee). The documents are then sent to the cantonal supervisory bureau for the canton of origin which will take a decision concerning recognition. In Geneva, this is the Civil Registry and Legalisations Department.
Foreign same-sex partnership or marriage
A same-sex partnership or marriage duly contracted abroad is recognised in Switzerland if it complies with the principles of Swiss law. To have it recognised, you must perform the following procedure: Having a foreign same-sex partnership or marriage recognised for citizens of Geneva
Civil, religious or secular marriage
In Switzerland, only a civil marriage or a registered partnership enables a union to be made official in law.
If you wish, you can also undertake a religious marriage, but only after a civil marriage celebration. You can also opt for a secular ceremony tailored to your desires if you wish to celebrate your union outside the religious institutions.
A marriage is dissolved by means of a divorce.
Article modifié le 13.05.2020 à 13:07