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Switzerland [1] [print]

Last edited: May 2005

 

Summary and Analysis

 

The right for children to be heard in Switzerland is governed by procedural cantonal rules subject to Swiss federal law.  The Swiss Civil Code – which applies country-wide and guides cantonal law – provides a barebones foundation for the representation of children in proceedings concerning them.  In the chapter covering parental authority, the Code calls for the appointment of a guardian to represent children whenever their interests lie in conflict with those of their parents.  The details of this representation and the means by which children may be heard, however, are left to the vagaries of cantonal law. 

 

Because of this, there is great variation across the federation in the ways in which children are accorded opportunities to be heard in protective proceedings.  Hearings are not only differently organized in the Swiss cantons, the ages or criteria determining a child's opportunity or right to be heard differ widely.  Where child protective measures are contemplated, children of all ages may be questioned, account being taken of their capacity to form their own opinions and ability to express themselves.  According to the Swiss report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, “certain cantons hear children from the 24th month, others from ‘about three years,' and yet others refer to ‘kindergarten age.'”[2]  The cantons all account for the circumstances of the proceeding and the development of the child, and may arrange hearings “so as to respect the child's world.”[3]  For example, very young children may be examined outside the courtroom by experienced professionals in the presence of a trusted adult, with results often submitted in the form of an expert report rather than a purely legal record.  Provisions as such, however, remain at the discretion of the cantons as a matter of Swiss Constitutional law. 

 

Unfortunately, Swiss cantonal law is not widely available for research or review outside the federation.  Given these rather limited resources, this site is unable to provide a full review of cantonal child protective law.  The relevant portions of the canton of Bern have been excerpted above.

 

Sources of Law (In Order of Authority)

 

Original Text

 

Constitutional Law

 

Constitution de la Suisse[4]

 

Art. 11 Protection des enfants et des jeunes

 

1.   Les enfants et les jeunes ont droit à une protection particulière de leur intégrité et à l'encouragement de leur développement.

2.   Ils exercent eux-mêmes leurs droits dans la mesure où ils sont capables de discernement.

 

Statutes

 

Code Civile de la Suisse[5]

Chapitre III : De l'autorité paternelle

 

Art. 301

. . .

2.  L'enfant doit obéissance à ses père et mère, qui lui accordent la liberté d'organiser sa vie selon son degré de maturité et tiennent compte autant que possible de son avis pour les affaires importantes.

 

Art. 306

. . .

2.   Les dispositions sur la curatelle de représentation sont applicables lorsque, dans une affaire, les intérêts des père et mère s'opposent à ceux de l'enfant.

 

Chapitre V: De la curatelle

 

Art. 392

L'autorité tutélaire institue une curatelle soit à la requête d'un intéressé, soit d'office, dans les cas prévus par la loi et, en outre:

. . .

2. lorsque les intérêts du mineur . . . sont en opposition avec ceux du représentant légal;

3. lorsque le représentant légal est empêché.

 

Art. 308

1. Lorsque les circonstances l'exigent, l'autorité tutélaire nomme à l'enfant un curateur qui assiste les père et mère de ses conseils et de son appui dans le soin de l'enfant.

2 Elle peut conférer au curateur certains pouvoirs tels que celui de représenter l'enfant pour faire valoir sa créance alimentaire et d'autres droits, ainsi que la surveillance des relations personnelles.

3 L'autorité parentale peut être limité en conséquence.

 

Art. 314

La procédure est réglée par la législation cantonale, sous réserve des prescriptions suivantes:

1. avant d'ordonner une mesure de protection de l'enfant, l'autorité tutélaire ou le tiers nommé à cet effet entend l'enfant personnellement et de manière appropriée, pour autant que son âge ou d'autres motifs importants ne s'opposent pas à l'audition;

. . .

 

Loi du canton de Bern, Code de la Procedure Civile[6]

(au sujet des procedures de la divorce e la custodie)

 

Art. 304e [Introduit le 19 fevrier 2004]

2. Audition

1  Si des enfants doivent être entendus, l'audition sera menée de manière appropriée par le tribunal ou par une tierce personne mandatée à cet effet, en principe en l'absence des parents. Le résultat de l'audition doit être consigné, sous une forme tenant compte de l'intérêt de l'enfant, dans un procès-verbal ou dans un compte rendu de conversation.

2  Le procès-verbal ou le compte rendu de conversation est porté à la connaissance des parents, de l'enfant capable de discernement et du curateur de l'enfant. Ces derniers peuvent prendre position sur le résultat de l'audition.

3  Contre le refus du président du tribunal d'entendre un enfant, les parents, l'enfant capable de discernement ou à défaut le curateur peuvent former une prise à partie conformément aux articles 374 ss.

 

Loi du canton de Bern de l'introduction de la Code Civile de la Suisse (Titre selon teneur du 26 novembre 1998)[7]

Chapitre III: De la famille

 

Art. 26f  [Introduit le 19. 2. 2004]

V. Audition de l'enfant lors de décisions touchant ses intérêts

Si l'autorité de tutelle modifie des décisions touchant les intérêts de l'enfant (art. 134,

298 s. et 314, ch. 1 CCS  [RS 210]), les dispositions relatives à l'audition de l'enfant

au sens de l'article 304e du Code de procédure civile du 7 juillet 1918 (CPC)  [RSB

271.1] s'appliquent par analogie.

 

Translation[8]

 

Constitutional Law

 

Swiss Constitution

 

Art. 11 Protection of children and youth

1.  Children and youth have a special right to the protection of their integrity and to the encouragement of their development.

2.  They exercise these rights themselves inasmuch as they are capable of discernment.

 

Statutes

 

Swiss Civil Code

Chapter III: On parental authority

 

Art. 301

2.  The child owes obedience to his father and mother, who will grant him the liberty to organize his life in accordance with his degree of maturity and take account of his opinion as much as possible in important matters. 

 

Art. 306

2.  The provisions on legal guardianship and representation are applicable when, in a matter, the interests of the father and mother are in conflict with those of the child.   

 

Chapter V: On guardianship

Art. 392

The tutelary authority will assign a guardian at the request of an interested person or of its own authority where envisioned by law, or else:

. . .

2.  when the interests of the minor . . . are in conflict with those of his legal representative

3.  when the legal guardian is detained]

 

Art. 308

1.  When circumstances so demand, the tutelary authority will assign to the child a guardian, who assists the father and mother with his advice and his support in the care of the child.

2.  [The tutelary authority] may endow the guardian with certain powers, such as the representation of the child in validating claims for necessary food or other rights, just as he will oversee the child's personal relationships. 

3.  Consequently, parental authority may be limited. 

 

Art. 314

The procedure is governed by cantonal legislation, subject to the following prescriptions: 

1. before ordering a child protective measure, the tutelary authority or the third party named to this effect will personally hear the child in an appropriate way, so long as his age or other important considerations do not oppose the hearing

. . .

 

Bern Canton Law, Code of Civil Procedure

 

Art. 304e [Introduced 19 Feb. 2004]

2.  Hearing

1  If children must be heard, the hearing will be conducted in an appropriate manner by the tribunal or by a designated third person, on principle in the absence of the parents.  The results of this hearing must be recorded, in a way accounting for the interest of the child, in a statement or an account of this conversation.

2  The statement or account of the conversation will be brought to the attention of the parents, a capable child and the child's guardian.  The latter may take positions on the outcome of the statement. 

3  To fight against the refusal of the tribunal president to hear a child, the parents, a child capable of discernment or failing that the guardian may bring an appeal in accordance with article 374 et seq.  

 

Bern Canton law on the introduction of the Swiss Civil Code (as titled since 26 Nov. 1998)

 

Art. 2zf

V.  The hearing of a child in decisions affecting his interests

If the tutelary authority alters any decisions affecting the interests of the child . . . the provisions relevant to the hearing of the child in the sense of article 304 of the code of civil procedure . . . will apply by analogy. 

 

Local Contact Information

 

Association Suisse pour la Protection de l'Enfant

Case postale 344

3000 Berne 14

Phone:  +41 031 398 10 10

E-mail:  info@kindershutz.ch

Web page: http://www.aspe-suisse.ch

 



Endnotes

[1] This page is also available as a .pdf Document, and Word Document.

[2] Committee on the Rights of the Child, Initial Reports of States Parties due in 1999:  Switzerland, ¶ 31, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/78/Add.3 ¶ 115 (Oct. 19, 2001), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[3] Id.

[4] Constitution fédérale de la Confédération Suisse [Cst] [Constitution] April 18, 1999, RO 101, art. 11 (Switz.), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[5] Code civile Suisse [Cc] [Civil Code] Dec. 10, 1907, RS 210, arts. 301, 306, 314, 318, 392 (Switz.), available as .pdf Document.

[6] Code de Procedure Civile [CPC] [Civil Procedure Code]  July 7, 1918, 271.1, art. 304e (Bern), available at http://www.sta.be.ch/belex/f/2/271_1.html and also as .pdf Document.

[7] Loi sur l'introduction du Code civil suisse [LiCCS] May 21, 1911, 211.1 (Bern), available at http://www.sta.be.ch/belex/f/2/211_1.html (Bern), and also here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[8] All the translations in this entry are done by Patrick Geary, J.D. 2005. They are not official translations and are provided for reference purposes only.

 

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