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Revised constitution for new millennium

Without much fanfare, Switzerland’s revised constitution formally took effect on January 1st. While most of the amendments will not overturn people’s everyday lives, a number of new laws, including new divorce regulations, will have an impact.

This content was published on January 1, 2000 - 11:03

Without much fanfare, Switzerland’s revised constitution formally took effect on January 1st. While most of the amendments will not overturn people’s everyday lives, a number of new laws, including new divorce regulations, will certainly have an impact.

The updated constitutional framework had been undergoing a complete overhaul for the past 30 years. The idea was to give the already much-amended constitution of 1848 – which marked the start of modern Switzerland -- a complete makeover and bring it up to date.

The federal authorities note that most people will not feel the impact of the new constitution, since very few rights and freedoms are specifically enshrined in the document. It was approved by Swiss voters in a national poll in April.

Lawyers, on the other hand, will keep a close eye on Switzerland’s highest court, the Federal Court in Lausanne, to see whether the linguistic reworkings will also lead to new legal interpretations.

As opposed to the new constitution, revised divorce laws will have an immediate impact on Switzerland, where the divorce rate was 37 percent last year.

Under the revised legislation, couples can either jointly file for divorce, or one party can do so and the divorce claim will legally take effect after four years of separation.

Divorced parents will be able to have joint custody of their children, who will now be allowed to present their position during divorce proceedings.

The new legislation drops the idea of a “guilty party,” and divorce courts instead base their allocation of financial responsibilities on how everyday work was divided during the marriage, how long it lasted, the age and state of health of husband and wife, as well as their wealth and income.

From staff and wire reports.

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