International Parental Child Abduction

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Country Information

Switzerland

Switzerland
Swiss Confederation
Exercise normal precautions in Switzerland.

Exercise normal precautions in Switzerland. 

Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.

If you decide to travel to Switzerland:

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Hague Convention Participation
Party to the Hague Abduction Convention?
Yes
U.S. Treaty Partner under the Hague Abduction Convention?
Yes
What You Can Do
Learn how to respond to abductions FROM the US
Learn how to respond to abductions TO the US
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Embassies and Consulates

U.S. Embassy Bern

Sulgeneckstrasse 19
3007 Bern, Switzerland
Telephone: +(41) (31) 357-7011
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(41) (31) 357-7777
Fax: +(41) (31) 357-7280
Send us an Email via our Contact Form
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/USBotschaftBern/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/USEmbassyBern

Mailing address:
U.S. Embassy Bern
Postfach 5266
3001 Bern, Switzerland

The American Citizens Services section of the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy provides routine and emergency services for U.S. citizens. The Embassy requires appointments for routine consular services.  Additional information is available through the U.S. Citizen Services page on the Embassy’s website.  Please schedule an appointment through the online appointment system for U.S. Citizen Services.

Consular Agencies

There are two part-time consular agencies in Switzerland. They provide limited services to U.S. citizens. Please note that emergency passports can only be applied for and issued at the Embassy in Bern. Please visit our website for more information on available services.

U.S. Consular Agency - Geneva
Geneva America Center
Rue François-Versonnex 7
CH-1207 Geneva, Switzerland
Telephone: +(41)(31) 357-7011


Mailing address: 
U.S. Embassy Bern
Postfach 5266
3001 Bern, Switzerland

U.S. Consular Agency - Zurich
Zurich America Center
Dufourstrasse 101
8008 Zurich, Switzerland
Telephone: +(41)(31) 357-7011 

Mailing address
U.S. Embassy Bern
Postfach 5266
3001 Bern, Switzerland

General Information

 

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.

The U.S. Department of State reports statistics and compliance information for individual countries in the Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA).  The report is located here.

 

 

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

Contact information:

Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children's
CA/OCS/CI
SA-17, 9th Floor
Washington, DC 20522-1709
Telephone:  1-888-407-4747
Outside the United States or Canada: 1-202-501-4444
Website
Email: AskCI@state.gov

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
Bundesrain 20
3003 Bern
Switzerland
Telephone:  011-41-31-323-8864
Fax:  011-41-31-322-7864
Email address:  Kindesschutz@bj.admin.ch
Website

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.  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.

Return

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.

Visitation/Access

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.

Mediation

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.

Exercising Custody Rights

While travelling in a foreign country, you are subject to the laws of that country. It is important for parents to understand that, although a left-behind parent in the United States may have custody or visitation rights pursuant to a U.S. custody order, that order may not be valid and enforceable in the country in which the child is located.  For this reason, we strongly encourage you to speak to a local attorney if planning to remove a child from a foreign country without the consent of the other parent.  Attempts to remove your child to the United States may:

  • Endanger your child and others;
  • Prejudice any future judicial efforts; and
  • Could result in your arrest and imprisonment.

The U.S. government cannot interfere with another country’s court or law enforcement system.

To understand the legal effect of a U.S. order in a foreign country, a parent should consult with a local attorney in the country in which the child is located.  

For information about hiring an attorney abroad, see our section on Retaining a Foreign Attorney. 

Although we cannot recommend an attorney to you, most U.S. Embassies have lists of attorneys available online. Please visit the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate website for a full listing.

For more information on consular assistance for U.S. citizens arrested abroad, please see our website.

Country officers are available to speak with you Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.  For assistance with an abduction in progress or any emergency situation that occurs after normal business hours, on weekends, or federal holidays, please call toll free at 1-888-407-4747. See all contact information.

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. 

 

Last Updated: June 1, 2015

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

U.S. Embassy Bern
Sulgeneckstrasse 19
CH-3007 Bern, Switzerland
Telephone
+(41) (31) 357-7011
Emergency
+(41) (31) 357-7777
Fax
+(41) (31) 357-7280
Switzerland Map