If the parents of a child are not married to each other, the relationship between the biological father and his child (paternity) needs to be established by means of recognition.
We recommend making the recognition before birth of the child at the civil registry office in charge.
Swiss nationals may contact any given civil registry office in Switzerland for recognition.
If one of the parents is a foreign national, please contact the civil registry office at the child’s place of birth for recognition (if the child was already born) or the civil registry office at the mother’s/father’s place of residence or place of origin.
Requirements for recognition
- Only the biological father can recognise a child. (A man who is not the biological father can choose to adopt the child.)
- If a married woman has a child, her husband is assumed by law to be the legal father of the child (assumption of paternity). If the husband is not the biological father, recognition by the biological father can only take place after paternity of the husband was annulled by the court in charge.
- Any man wishing to recognise paternity must be an adult and capable of judgment. Otherwise, the consent of his legal representative is required.
Legal effects of recognition
A recognition cannot be revoked. It establishes the legal kinship between the biological father and the child. The recognised child is entitled to inherit from its father and is entitled to child maintenance.
Foreign children born after 1 January 2006 acquire cantonal and municipal citizenship with the recognition by the Swiss father.
Necessary documents for recognition
One or both parents are foreign nationals
If one or both of you are foreign nationals, you may not be registered in the Swiss Civil Register yet. The registration must take place prior to recognition. The documents necessary for the registration vary depending on the parent's nationality, civil status and birth country. We are happy to advise you on the necessary documents. Please fill the contact form «recognition».
If both of you are Swiss nationals, you can come by the Zurich civil registry office for recognition. Please bring your passport or ID. A residence confirmation is only required if one of the parents’ main place of residence is outside the canton of Zurich. Please make an appointment by telephone (044 412 31 50).
When recognising the child, the biological parents can state at the civil registry office that they opt for joint custody. In this written declaration, the parents confirm that they are willing to jointly assume responsibility for their child and that they have agreed on physical custody and visitation rights or division of childcare as well as on the child support. The declaration of joint custody must always be made by both parents together. For more information, see Factsheet joint custody (in German).
The office for parenthood and maintenance will answer any questions regarding joint custody.
In connection with joint custody, the biological parents also need to sign an agreement regarding child raising pension contributions. When calculating the pension, child-rearing credits take into account the loss of income that one parent may suffer as a result of looking after the children. Parents who are not married to each other and who establish joint custody by means of a joint declaration may agree to whom the pension credits are to be awarded or whether they are to be shared. If no agreement is reached, the Child and Adult Protection Services (KESB) will settle the award of the pension credits for child-rearing ex officio after a period of three months. A fifty-fifty share of the credit is appropriate if both parents look after the child in nearly equal shares. For more information, see Factsheet pension credits for child-rearing (in German)
The social security institution will answer any questions regarding pension credits for child-rearing.
The joint custody agreement, which is not submitted along with the recognition papers, can be submitted at the Child and Adult Protection Services (KESB) at a later date.
Surname of the child
If joint parental custody is agreed, the child can bear the surname of the father or mother. In the absence of a joint custody agreement, the child will be named after the maiden name of the mother.
For the child to bear the father's name from birth on, the child must be recognised and the joint custody agreement must be performed before the child’s birth.
If the recognition and the joint custody are not declared until after the child's birth, it is possible to sign a declaration of change of name to the father’s single name within one year.
You have recognised your child at the Zurich civil registry office and would like to order a paternity certificate? You can do so quickly and easily at the online service desk (in German).