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Equal in name before the law

Married couples will soon be legally allowed to choose whose surname they use under reforms to come into effect next year.

This content was published on April 23, 2012 - 13:51
swissinfo.ch and agencies

Aimed at ensuring equality, the law will now give both men and women the choice of either keeping their birth name upon marriage or choosing either name as a common family name.

The changes to the law follow a decision by the European Court of Human Rights which in 1994 criticised Switzerland for laws which did not allow a man to hyphenate his name to include the name of his wife, and which stipulated that any children must be given the father's family name. 

Homosexual couples will also have the same choice as heterosexuals when entering into a civil partnership, the Federal Justice Office said on Monday.

In cases where both parents chose to keep their birth name, they will have to nominate one name for their children. An unmarried mother will transfer her name to the child, unless there is agreement between father and mother for the child to take the father’s name.

In case of the death of a spouse, the surviving spouse may choose to revert to their birth name, an option which was not previously allowed. The same rule will also now apply in cases of divorce, where before it was not possible to revert to one’s birth name.

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