In Switzerland, matrimonial law is regulated in the Swiss Code of Civil Law (ZGB art. 90 - 251). As a binational couple, you are subject to Swiss matrimonial law if your matrimonial place of residence is in Switzerland, even if you got married abroad.
The most important rights and duties in marriage are summarised in the following:
Principle (ZGB art. 159):
The spouses are obliged to maintain the well-being of the conjugal community and to care for their children. They owe each other fidelity and support. The spouses have equal rights and together weigh up personal interests against those of the conjugal community.
Matrimonial home (ZGB art. 162):
The spouses determine their matrimonial home together. With mutual agreement it is also possible to establish two places of residence as a married couple.
Notice can only be given on the matrimonial home together or with the express agreement of one's partner (ZGB art. 169).
Important for binational couples
Since 2008, if one spouse comes from a third country, binational couples are required to live in one household in order to assert the right to residence through family reunification as well as to extend the residence permit until a permanent residence permit is received. (Art. 42 of the Aliens’ Act [Ausländergesetz], AuG).
However, that requirement will not apply if good cause is asserted an the family home is maintained (art. 49 AuG).
Important reasons can be, for instance, work or training for which weekdays are spent in a different location.
Family maintenance (ZGB art. 163):
The spouses provide family maintenance together and agree on the allocation of gainful occupation, childcare and household chores. Within their means, both partners are entitled to a discretionary amount of money as an allowance. (Money). This maintenance obligation applies even if the couple has separate property.
Obligation to provide information (ZGB art. 170):
The spouses are obliged to inform each other about income, wealth and debts. This right can be required legally if necessary, e.g. in the case of a matrimonial protection procedure.
Dissolution of the joint household (ZGB art. 175 ff):
A spouse is entitled to dissolve the joint household for as long as his/her personality, economic security or the well-being of the family is seriously endangered through living together, e.g. in the case of domestic violence. (Separation and divorce). An application for legal separation can be filed with the court for matrimonial protection. However, this often leads to the loss of the residence permit.
In a binational marriage, both parties retain their citizenship (provided the law of the home country permits dual citizenship). (see Residence).