divorce switzerland financial questions
Everyday Money

Divorce in Switzerland: Financial Questions and Answers

June 12, 2023 - Daniel Dreier

What are the financial impacts of divorce in Switzerland? Get answers to the most important questions in this moneyland.ch guide.

Divorce is relatively common in Switzerland. Statistics from the Federal Statistical Office show that around 16,500 divorces are carried out annually, on average. But in spite of its popularity, many people are not fully aware of how divorce impacts them financially.

Here, moneyland.ch answers some of the most important questions about divorce and how it affects your wallet.

1. What happens to my assets when I divorce?

That depends on whether or not you have created a marital agreement. In the default matrimonial property regime (you have no marital agreement), property and assets held by each person ahead of getting married remains their property after divorce. Inheritances and gifts received by one spouse during the marriage remain in that spouse's possession after divorce. All other assets acquired during your marriage are divided equally between both parties.

If dividing your assets with your ex-spouse is not an option for you, consider creating a notarized marital agreement prior to divorcing which specifies another marital property regime.

2. How does divorce affect my taxes?

Divorce has far-reaching effects on taxes. As a single person, the tax bracket you are placed in depends on your personal income. As a married couple, the tax bracket you are placed in depends on your combined income.

If you both earned a decent income prior to divorcing, you can expect to pay lower taxes after you divorce because only your own income will be used to determine your tax bracket, rather than your combined income. If only one of you worked, or if both of you worked but your spouse earned a low income, you can expect your tax bill to increase because you no longer have your spouse's low income to balance your higher income. If, on the other hand, you earn a low income and your spouse earns a high income, you can expect be placed in a lower tax bracket after your divorce.

Child support payments you make can be deducted from your taxable income. The spouse or (grown) child who receives the child support must declare it as income.

Tax laws vary broadly between cantons, so the extent to which your taxes are affected by divorce depends on which part of Switzerland you reside in.

3. What happens to my social security contributions when I divorce?

When two people are married for more than one year, contributions paid into old-age insurance and disability insurance from social security during their marriage are split between them. When you divorce, you and your spouse each keep your share of the social security benefits which you accumulated throughout your marriage. You will have to request the separation of your social security assets from your social security office after the divorce is complete. Social security assets are split regardless of marital agreements stipulating separate estates.

Old age pension: After you divorce, you will be eligible to receive a full social security old age pension, without the 25 percent penalty which applies to married individuals.

Disability pension: If divorcing leads to your disability pension being radically reduced – as may be the case if you are young and have not yet contributed a lot of money to social security – you should consider taking out private disability insurance to fill the gap until you rebuild your social security savings.

Survivor’s pension: Divorced women are still entitled to receive a survivor’s pension in the event that their ex-husband dies if they meet at least one of these criteria:

  • She will turn 45 years old before her youngest child turns 18 years old.

  • The marriage lasted at least 10 years and she was older than 45 years old at the time of divorce. 

  • The marriage lasted at least 10 years and she has a child of any age.

Divorced men are entitled to a survivor’s pension in the event that their ex-wife dies if they have children under 18 years old. They receive this pension until their youngest child's eighteenth birthday. The same applies to divorced women who do not meet any of the criteria listed above.

4. Is my occupational pension fund affected?

The retirement savings which you have contributed to your employers’ pension funds during your marriage are added together and the total is then split evenly. This occurs even if you have a marital agreement which eliminates joint property.

Splitting your pension assets with your spouse may create large gaps in your pension. You can close up gaps in your pension fund by making voluntary contributions in keeping with your pension fund’s regulations.  

If you are not employed, you will have to place your share of the pension savings in a vested benefits account or retirement fund.

5. What happens to my pillar 3a retirement savings?

Your pillar 3a retirement savings are treated exactly the same as your regular private savings. Pillar 3a assets which you accumulated before getting married remain in your possession, as do pillar 3a savings made up of gifts or inheritances which you received during your marriage. All other pillar 3a retirement savings are divided equally between both spouses.

Pillar 3a assets must remain in a pillar 3a savings solution, so if you do not have your own pillar 3a account, pillar 3a retirement fund, or pillar 3a asset management service, you will have to open one.

6. Alimony and child support

In Switzerland, you are not normally required to pay alimony to your former spouse over the long term. However, if you were married for many years, or if your spouse has poor prospects of earning a living on their own, you may be required to support them financially for a time.

If you have children together, you must both continue to meet your financial obligations to your children after divorcing. If a child lives with just one spouse, the other spouse may have to pay child support.

The size of alimony and child support payments is decided by a court of law based on cantonal guidelines. If children live with one parent, that parent is not required to pay child support. If your income is lower than the cantonal “minimum subsistence” level, you will not normally be obligated to pay child support.

7. Am I still entitled to an inheritance?

After you divorce, you no longer have any claim to an inheritance from your ex-spouse. The reason for this is that you receive your share of retirement assets and joint property when you divorce. Children remain legally entitled to their compulsory share of inheritances after their parents’ divorce.

You can find detailed information in the guide to inheritances in Switzerland.

8. Who pays the legal expenses?

In regular divorce cases, both spouses must cover equal shares of legal expenses. Court fees can easily add up to several thousand francs. Lawyer consultation fees are typically several hundred francs per hour. Unfortunately, legal insurance does not normally cover divorce-related expenses.

Some legal insurance policies do cover the cost of legal consultation with regards to marital law, and this can save you a lot of money during legal proceeding leading up to divorce. You can find these policies by selecting the “Marital law” filter under “Legal advisory protection coverage” in the moneyland.ch legal protection insurance comparisonNote that there may be qualification periods for certain coverages.

More on this topic:
Compare Swiss legal insurance offers now
Marriage in Switzerland: Financial pros and cons
Inheritances in Switzerland: A guide to who gets what
Financial inequalities between women and men in Switzerland

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Editor Daniel Dreier
Daniel Dreier is editor and personal finance expert at moneyland.ch.
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