Legal effects of separation
Spouses living separately are still seen as married in legal terms.
Spouses living separately are still obliged to support each other.
Parents living separately still have joint custody of their children; the separation agreement regulates parental care.
Separation does not lead to any change in the system of marital property.
Mutual titles to an inheritance and social security legislation claims (e.g. to pension fund assets) continue to exist in the case of a separation.
Spouses living separately are generally taxed separately.
A separation generally has no time constraints and can be dissolved at any time.
Important aspects for binational couples
With binational marriage, the national of a third country has a right of residence as part of family reunification; in the first years of marriage, this is a residence permit B. After 5 years the spouse of a Swiss national or a foreigner with a permit C has a right to a permit C and can submit a request for simplified nationalization.
The Aliens Act (AuG) issues or extends the residence permit for non-Swiss spouses from third countries only if the married couple lives together (art. 42 AuG).
Consequently, for concerned parties as defined by art. 42 AuG (cohabitation requirement), the provision on residence becomes problematic in the case of separation. Under art. 49 AuG, "good cause" may exempt the married couple from the cohabitation requirement. Professional obligations and significant family problems are recognized as good cause. However, a prerequisite is that the marriage not yet have definitively failed (e.g. if the couple attends family counselling or marriage therapy).
If the marriage has lasted at least three years and successful integration exists or there are significant personal reasons (marital violence, impossibility of social reintegration into the country of origin, and the like), the residence permit can be extended even in the absence of cohabitation (art. 50 AuG).
This provision does not apply for EU/EFTA citizens and for citizens of a third country who have a permanent residence permit in an EU/EFTA country.
Binational couples may seek information from one of the association’s counseling centers if they have questions.