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This project aims at investigating the practices and challenges associated with the shift to digital justice during the Covid-19 pandemic in family proceedings in Switzerland with a special focus on separations and divorces.

The impact of the pandemic has been drastic in family law with many individuals caught up in the middle of a critical family crisis. In particular, separating and divorcing individuals with children experienced increased vulnerability both materially and emotionally, with detrimental yet differentiated consequences for mothers, fathers and children.

The shift to digital justice has been boosted by the pandemic, but it is part of a larger and longer transformation of the justice system and, more globally, of Swiss society. To avoid delays and deal with emergency cases, the Swiss Federal Council opened up the use of remote hearings in civil proceedings (RS 272.81). While digital justice holds several advantages (e.g. speed, cost reduction), it also raises a number of practical and ethical concerns (e.g. technology, confidentiality).

The aim of this project is to investigate under what conditions digital proceedings can ensure access to justice for separating and divorcing couples with children under 18 during a major social crisis such as the Covid-19 pandemic and mitigate the increased risk of gender and social inequalities. The focus will be on gender and social inequalities related to access to justice, child visiting and physical custody arrangements, and maintenance payments to children and ex-spouses.

This project will suggest amendments to the Swiss civil procedure code (with a legal report) to ensure fair access to digital justice in family law. It will develop training modules for continuing education on the digitalisation of family justice, which will benefit practitioners. Finally, it will identify the risks of digital justice for social and gender inequalities.

Link to NRP website.

Project Managers

  • Gaëlle Aeby,
    Professeure HES associée
  • Michelle Cottier,
    Centre d'étude, de technique et d'évaluation législatives, Faculté de droit, Université de Genève
  • Eric Widmer,
    Centre d'étude, de technique et d'évaluation législatives et Institut de recherches sociologiques, Faculté des sciences de la société, Université de Genève