Children have the right to regular contact with both parents. Conversely, parents have the right, and duty, to maintain a regular relationship with their child. The somewhat misleading legal term of « visitation rights » therefore includes regular personal meetings as well as any form of indirect contacts. (telephone, mail/email, SMS, social networks, etc.)
Visitation rights give the child the feeling that they still belong to a family despite the parent’s separation and/or divorce. The relationship with the parent who does not live with them must allow the child to understand that that parent is there for them and takes care of them. Also, visitation rights may be restricted or excluded only when the welfare of the child is threatened.
In principle, all parents have the right to maintain a regular relationship with their child, regardless of their nationality or residence status. However, in Switzerland, grandparents, siblings, other reference persons or those who were previously responsible for the child do not have visitation rights by law.
When a child and a parent with visitation rights live in different countries, it is often very difficult to exercise this right. Relocating to another country can render inapplicable the visitation rights previously practiced. In such a situation a new agreement is needed. Contacts by phone or Skype, public holidays and vacation will take a much more important role. We invite you to learn more about solutions when faced with visitation rights problems by reading the next section.
es enfants ont le droit à une relation régulière avec leurs deux parents. Inversement, les parents ont le droit – et l‘obligation – d’entretenir une relation régulière avec leur enfant. La notion juridique d’ailleurs fort réductrice de « droit de visite » englobe ainsi les rencontres personnelles et régulières ainsi que toute forme de contacts indirects (téléphone, courriers/mails, SMS, réseaux sociaux).
Who to contact if the child lives in Switzerland?
When the child resides in Switzerland, parents may contact the competent judicial authority, child protection service or a consultation service to attempt to find a solution. Parents living abroad also have the right to use these services.
If the child lives abroad, there are several options. Professionals need to carefully examine and consider their advantages and disadvantages, especially considering the interests of the child. The involvement of a court or administrative authorities can clarify a situation and promote decision making, but it can also harden a conflict, often to the detriment of the child.
An out of court agreement
Can and should always be considered. If it’s best to appeal to members of the family, or rather a conciliator, mediator or other authority depends on the specifics of the situation. Do not hesitate to contact us so we can help determine the best possible approaches.
Judicial proceedings abroad
Most parents do not realize that legal action can be taken abroad. They fear exorbitant fees and discrimination in a country that is unknown to them. However, a legal process is sometimes unavoidable.
There are international conventions dealing with establishing visitation rights abroad. The Hague Convention on child abduction allows each parent to apply, at any time, to protect visitation rights. Other agreements may also be applied, such as the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and the European Convention on parental authority. They determine the procedures, the competence of the authorities, and the recognition and enforcement of decisions from one country to another.
The existing rules on visitation rights
They remain valid in principle after relocating. The parent who leaves the country generally cannot impose the contrary. However, relocation has other practical consequences. In Switzerland, it is common for the child and the parent with visiting rights to be together every other weekend and one day a week, which is often not possible after relocating abroad. It is advised to check how regulations can be applied abroad and what, if any, must be adapted to a new situation. The application of the conventions mentioned above can help find a solution.
If a parent lives abroad and wants to maintain contact with their child residing in Switzerland, the rules listed above are generally valid. We recommend that they inquire about international conventions that apply between their country and Switzerland. If necessary, the local partner of the International Social Service in their country can advise them.
If they decide to act through the Central Authority in their country, the Swiss Central Authority will then mandate a lawyer who will represent them before the Swiss courts.
If they want or are obliged to sue for forced visitation rights, we recommend that they hire a lawyer. We are at their disposal to answer their questions on the potential costs of such an action.