From January 1, same-sex couples and de facto spouses may adopt stepchildren in Switzerland. In addition, the secrecy surrounding adoption will be loosened so adopted children and their biological parents will be able to get in contact more easily.
Until now, only married people have been able to adopt their spouses’ children from a previous relationship. In Switzerland, homosexuals have been able to enter into a civil partnership since 2007, but gay marriage is not recognised. From 2018, however, adoption of stepchildren will be possible for anyone in a civil partnership or a longterm relationship.
Swiss law will thus align itself closer to that of other western European countries and the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.
That said, a couple in a civil partnership will still be unable to adopt a child who is biologically unrelated to both parents. This means a gay person can adopt if single, but not when in a civil partnership.
The adoption option was deliberately left out of the nationwide vote on approving civil partnerships for gays in 2005 in order to increase the chances of success.
The new adoption law includes other changes. The minimum age required to become an adoptive parent will be lowered from 35 to 28. Also, people wanting to adopt need to have been in a relationship for three years as opposed to five – with the time spent living together being decisive, not the length of the marriage.
A further significant change concerns the relaxation of secrecy surrounding adoption. Open adoption – where the adoptive and biological families have varying degrees of access to each other’s personal information and have an option of contact – has existed in other countries for many years. In Switzerland, however, only “secret adoption” was possible: an adopted child had to wait until he or she turned 18 before being able to seek contact with the biological parents.
In addition, biological parents will be able to look for the child they gave up for adoption. They will receive the child’s details – if the child agrees. If the child is under 18, the adoptive parents’ permission will be needed.
Adopted children will also be able to receive information about any biological siblings or half-siblings, as long as the latter are over 18 and give their consent.
(Translated from German by Thomas Stephens), swissinfo.ch