Private international law (or conflict of laws) is a set of rules of law that determine which court has jurisdiction and which law governs a given legal dispute. It also determines whether, and if so under what conditions, a judgment rendered by a foreign court will be recognized and enforced domestically. Private international law rules typically apply when a legal dispute has an international element.
The private international law of Switzerland is codified in the Federal Act on Private International Law of 18 December 1987. That Act contains a general carve-out for matters governed by international treaties; some of those were drafted within international fora such as the Hague Conference on Private International Law, the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) or UNIDROIT.
Working alongside the government agencies that are also responsible for the issues mentioned, the Private International Law Unit prepares legislation and participates in the drafting and enforcements of the necessary international instruments (central authority function). These include international child abductions, international protection for minors and adults, cross-border spousal support-related matters, and international mutual assistance in civil and commercial matters, in which the authorities or courts of a requested states support the administration of justice in a requesting state.
International mutual assistance does not mean the provision of support to private individuals in legal matters with an international element. In particular, no information may be given on domestic or foreign law, or on the enforcement of claims under private law in Switzerland or internationally. The Federal Office of Justice provides legal information only in those areas in which it fulfils the function of a central authority, i.e. child abductions, protection for minors and adults, the collection of spousal and other support payments, and matters relating to summonses and evidence-gathering.
For the complete documentation see the pages in German, French or Italian.
Swiss Federal Act on Private International Law
(SR 291; in German, French or Italian)
- Lugano Convention
- Bilateral treaties
- Multilaterale Übereinkommen
- Conventions multilatérales
(This document is not available in English)
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Last modification 08.11.2021
Federal Office of Justice
Private International Law Unit
T +41 58 463 88 64
F +41 58 462 78 64