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Everything you need to know about adopting a child in Switzerland

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected] • 21 Oct, 2022 Updated Fri 21 Oct 2022 09:27 CEST
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What you need to know about adoption in Switzerland. Photo by Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash

Whether a couple has struggled to have their own child or is looking to grow their family, adoption can be a great way to allow everyone hoping to be a parent, to become one. Here’s everything you need to know about adoption in Switzerland, from the requirements to the cost and process.

In Switzerland you can adopt a child as either a couple or a single parent, however, adopters may face many legal hurdles when looking to adopt and the adoption process can take several years.

How to adopt a child

Before prospective adopter(s) can be matched to a child they will be invited to join an information meeting by the Zentralen Behörden der Kantone (ZBK). They can then decide whether they want to submit an application to open the adoption process and will be guided through the next steps by the ZKB.

Whether it be domestic or international adoption, Switzerland has a set of basic requirements for adoptions. Each cantonal authority will check that applicants fulfil these requirements, which consist of the following six points:

  1. The age difference between the adopter(s) and the child they wish to adopt must be a minimum of 16 and a maximum of 45 years.
  2. The adopter(s) must be able to provide proper, lasting care for the child and ensure that they receive an appropriate education. To check this, a specialist qualified in social work or psychology will meet with the adopter(s) several times to provide and gather information, and to discuss the different aspects of adoption.
  3. Each adoption must be in the interest of the child, while the interests of the adopter(s) other children must also be considered.
  4. If the child can do so, they must consent to the adoption.
  5. The adopter(s) must have been responsible for financially supporting the child's education and care for at least one year prior to seeking out adoption.
  6. If the child's biological parents are known and still alive, they must consent to the adoption unless they have been absent for a long period and their whereabouts are unknown, or they permanently lack the legal capacity to do so. The biological parents may not give their consent before the child is six weeks old and may still revoke their consent in the six weeks after that.

If all basic, legal, and socio-pedagogical requirements are met and the applicants have decided on the profile and country of origin of the adoptee, the ZBK will then issue them with a certificate of suitability (Eignungsbescheinigung).

Who can adopt a child?

“How old do I have to be to adopt?” is one of the most frequently asked questions when looking to adopt a child. In Switzerland, a prospective adopter(s) must be over 28 years old when applying for the adoption of a child - whether they be married or single.

How can we adopt a child as a couple?

Any couples looking to adopt a child must fulfil all the basic requirements, be married, and have lived together for at least three years. They must also both be over 28 years old and registered as living in Switzerland.

Can I adopt as a single parent?

Yes, single persons can be considered for adoption in the same way married couples are if they meet the age requirement and are single at the time of application.

If the adopter(s) is still married or in a registered partnership but wishes to adopt on their own, they will have to have been officially separated from their spouse for at least three years, prove their partners lacks legal capacity, or prove their partner has been absent without a fixed abode for at least two years prior to applying.

Can I adopt if I am homosexual?

Yes, an adopter(s) can adopt if they are homosexual, either as a single parent or if they are in a registered same-sex partnership.

Moreover, homosexual persons have also been able to adopt their partner’s (biological or adopted) children since 2018.

How do I adopt my partner’s children?

An individual wanting to adopt their partner’s children may do so if they fulfil all the basic requirements, are married, living in a registered partnership, or living in the same household.

Additionally, the adopter and their partner must have been living together for at least three years.

Is it possible to adopt someone aged 18 or over?

Adopting an adult is possible if the adopter(s) has lived with the adoptee for at least a year when the latter was still a minor, or the adoptee is in need of continuous care and lived with and was cared for by the adopter(s) for at least a year (even if they were already of age during this time).

The adoption of an adult may also be possible if there are other important reasons for the adoption and the adoptee has lived with the adopter(s) for at least a year.

The same regulations as apply to the adoption of minors also apply to the adoption of adults, apart from the need for parental consent.

How much does it cost to adopt?

Domestic adoptions don’t cost the adopter(s) any money, but the same can’t be said for international adoptions. If an adopter(s) chooses to adopt internationally (only around twenty children born in Switzerland are put up for adoption every year), then the process can be extremely costly depending on the adoptee’s country of origin and how many journeys it will take to meet and get to know the child prior to adoption.

Will I be entitled to parental leave?

Sadly, an adopter(s) is not entitled to parental leave by law when adopting a child. The closest regulation to support parental leave can be found in the Swiss Code of Obligations, which stipulates that the employer must grant employees time off for family events.

Can the child’s birth parents remain involved?

In domestic adoptions, the adoptive and biological parents can agree that the latter have the right to maintain a personal relationship with the minor child, however, this must be approved by the Child Protection Agency. The child must also be heard and, depending on their age, agree to the arrangement.

This may not be an option for international adoptions and is dependent on the adoptee’s country of origin’s adoption regulations and whether the birth parents are known.

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Sandra Sparrowhawk 2022/10/21 09:27

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