SwitzerlandOfficial Name: Swiss Confederation
Embassies and Consulates
CH-3007 Bern, Switzerland
Telephone: (41) (31) 357-7011
Emergency Telephone: (41) (31) 357-7777
Fax: (41) (31) 357-7280
U.S. Consular Agent - Geneva
7, rue François Versonnex
Telephone: (41) (22) 840-5160
Emergency Telephone: 031 357 70 11
Fax: (41) (22) 840-5162
Hours by appointment - 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
U.S. Consular Agent - Zurich
Zurich America Center
Telephone: (41) (43) 499-2960
Emergency Telephone: 031 357 77 77
Fax: (41) (43) 499-2961
Hours by appointment - 10:00 until 13:00, Monday through Friday.
Switzerland and the United States have been treaty partners under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Abduction Convention) since July 1, 1988.
For information concerning travel to Switzerland, including information about the location of the U.S. Embassy, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, entry/exit requirements, safety and security, crime, medical facilities and health information, traffic safety, road conditions and aviation safety, please see country-specific information for Switzerland.
Hague Abduction Convention
The U.S. Department of State serves as the U.S. Central Authority (USCA) for the Hague Abduction Convention. In this capacity, the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, Directorate for Overseas Citizens Services, Office of Children's Issues facilitates the submission of applications under the Hague Abduction Convention for the return of, or access to, children located in countries that are U.S. treaty partners, including Switzerland. Parents are strongly encouraged to contact the Department of State for assistance prior to initiating the Hague process directly with the foreign Central Authority
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children's
SA-17, 9th Floor
Washington, DC 20522-1709
Outside the United States or Canada: 1-202-501-4444
The Swiss Central Authority (SCA) for the Hague Abduction Convention is the Federal Office of Justice, Private Law Division. The SCA has an administrative role in processing Hague applications. The SCA searches for missing children with the assistance of Swiss police, together with the local population control registry office and the national immigration authority. The search for a missing minor can be combined with a request for urgent child protection measures (e.g., the placement of a jeopardized minor in a public home for children). After a child has been located, the SCA attempts to facilitate a voluntary return by proposing a mediation procedure. If mediation fails, the SCA will try to assist the left-behind parent in securing an attorney, who will then file the return request with the appropriate cantonal court. There is only one appeal to the Swiss Federal Court. The SCA can be reached at:
Federal Office of Justice
Private Law Division
Email address: Kindesschutz@bj.admin.ch
To initiate a Hague case for return of, or access to, a child in Switzerland, the USCA encourages a parent or legal guardian to review the eligibility criteria and instructions for completing the Hague application form located at the Department of State website and contact the Department of State for assistance prior to initiating the Hague process directly with the SCA. The USCA is available to answer questions about the Hague application process, to forward a completed application to the SCA, and to subsequently monitor its progress through the foreign administrative and legal processes.
There are no fees for filing Hague applications with either the United States or the Swiss central authorities. The costs of court proceedings and legal representation for left-behind parents are the responsibility of the left-behind parent. For more information, see this brochure, under “Costs.” The costs of mediation or a conciliation procedure that takes place before court proceedings are initiated can be met by the SCA if neither parent has sufﬁcient ﬁnancial means.
Applicant parents are responsible for costs associated with exercising rights of access abroad. Additional costs may include airplane tickets for court appearances and for the return of the child, if so ordered.
A parent or legal guardian may file an application under the Hague Abduction Convention for return to the United States of a child abducted to, or wrongfully retained in, Switzerland. The U.S. Department of State can assist parents living in the United States to understand whether the Convention is an available civil remedy and can provide information on the process for submitting a Hague application.
A person may file an application under the Hague Abduction Convention for access to a child living in Switzerland. The criteria for acceptance of a Hague access application vary from country to country. The U.S. Department of State can assist parents living in the United States to understand country-specific criteria and provide information on the process for submitting a Hague application.
Retaining an Attorney
Retaining a private attorney is not required in order to submit Hague Abduction Convention applications to a court in Switzerland. However, the SCA advises applicant parents to hire private attorneys to follow up on the case, to provide direct information to the court, and to generally advise the left-behind parent as to the best course of action for their individual circumstances. The SCA may provide assistance to parents in finding an attorney willing to represent them. A privately hired attorney should contact the SCA as soon as possible after the Hague Abduction Convention application has been filed with the SCA.
The U.S. Embassy in Bern, Switzerland, posts a list of attorneys including those who specialize in family law.
This list is provided as a courtesy service only and does not constitute an endorsement of any individual attorney. The Department of State assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the following persons or firms. Professional credentials and areas of expertise are provided directly by the lawyers.
The SCA strongly promotes confidential mediation in abduction cases and will attempt to initiate mediation in all Hague Abduction Convention cases. Confidential mediation is conducted by one or two professional counselors and should be completed within a few weeks. If the parties live a considerable distance apart, discussions may take place on the phone, via video link or Skype. If necessary, the SCA may call upon additional professionals (e.g., language or cultural interpreters). The agreement reached is set out in writing and, depending on its content, can be approved by the court.
Under the Federal Act on International Child Abduction, in Switzerland the basic principle applies that an exhaustive attempt should be made at helping parents to reach an amicable agreement by themselves before court proceedings are initiated. The SCA may therefore organize an international family mediation procedure before court proceedings are initiated, provided no parent objects.
We strongly discourage taking matters into your own hands. The measures could be illegal and may delay your child’s return. Attempts to re-abduct your child from the United States may:
- Endanger your child and others;
- Prejudice any future judicial efforts you might wish to make in the United States; and
- Could even result in your arrest and imprisonment.
Finally, there is no guarantee that the chain of abductions would end with the one committed by you. A parent who has re-abducted a child may have to go to extraordinary lengths to conceal his or her whereabouts, living in permanent fear that the child may be re-abducted yet again.
If you are contemplating such desperate measures, we advise you to consider the emotional trauma inflicted on a child who is a victim of an abduction and a re-abduction. We discourage re-abduction not only because it is illegal, but also because of possible psychological harm to the child.
DISCLAIMER: The information in this flyer is provided for general information only, is not intended to be legal advice, and may change without notice. Questions involving interpretation of law should be addressed to an attorney licensed in the relevant jurisdiction.