This research project aims to highlight the links between the negotiation of divorce agreements and

(1) the different concepts of gender equality present in current Swiss family law,

(2) the interpretations of these concepts by lawyers specialising in this field, as well as

(3) the life courses and division of labour of the couple before divorce.

Research on the transition to parenthood has shown gender dynamics by which women end up having a much larger share of domestic and caring work than men, while men have a much larger share of paid work.

However, there is still little research on gender dynamics in divorce as a key transition in an individual’s life course.

This project at the intersection of law and sociology aims to contribute to a better understanding of the legal dimensions of this process.

It proposes to study the embeddedness of different concepts of gender equality, present in the legal context, in the process of negotiation of divorce agreements between different-sex couples with children in Switzerland.

It will study the legal concepts of gender equality after divorce, the role of lawyers in interpreting these concepts and communicating this interpretation to their clients.

Finally, it will deliver results on the role of personal life trajectories and the division of labour before divorce in the negotiation of divorce agreements.

The methods used in this project include:

(1) analysis of written law (legislation, case law, legal writing);

(2) a quantitative survey using questionnaires with Swiss family law lawyers;

(3) in-depth qualitative interviews with lawyers and newly divorced persons.

Leaders: Prof. Michelle Cottier (Law Faculty, UNIGE) and Prof. Eric Widmer (School of Social Sciences, UNIGE)

Collaborators: Sabrian Roduit (since January 2023), Gaëlle Aeby (November 2019 - October 2022)

PhD candidate:  Bindu Johanna Sahdeva (Law Faculty, UNIGE)

Research auxiliariesLuisa Baumann (Law Faculty, UNIGE), February 2022 - December 2022, Marc Baumgartner (Law Faculty, UNIGE), March - December 2021; Baptiste Gold (Law Faculty, UNIGE), December 2019 - February 2021


COTTIER, Michelle, WIDMER, Eric D., AEBY, Gaëlle et SAHDEVA, Bindu Johanna, Autonomie und Scheidungsfolgen. Interpretationen der Geschlechtergleichheit im Kontext der Aushandlung von Scheidungsvereinbarungen. Dans Heiderhoff, Bettina ; Röthel, Anne. Autonomie in der Familie – eine Schwärmerei ?. Frankfurt am Main : Wolfgang Metzner Verlag, 2022. p. 61-92.

COTTIER, Michelle, SAHDEVA, Bindu Johanna et AEBY, Gaëlle. Implementing gender equality as an aim of the swiss family justice system. Dans Maclean, Mavis ; Treloar, Rachel ; Dijksterhuis, Bregje (Ed.). What Is a Family Justice System For?. Oxford : Hart Publishing, 2022. p. 71-91. (Oñati International Series in Law and Society)


“Implementing gender equality as an aim of the Swiss Family Justice System” au workshop “What is a Family Justice System For?” au Oñati International Institute for the Sociology of Law, évènement en ligne, 10 – 11 septembre 2020

“Autonomy and the consequences of divorce: Ideal and reality” à la conférence “Fachgespräch Familienrecht” à la Bucerius Law School, Hambourg, 12 mars 2021

“Family justice, private ordering and gender equality in Switzerland” au congrès “Social Justice in Time of Uncertainty” de la Société Suisse de sociologie, Genève, 28 – 30 juin 2021

“Gender (in)equality and the negotiation of divorce agreements: Insights from an ongoing socio-legal research project in Switzerland” à la conférence “WZB Talk” au Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung, évènement en ligne, 17 mai 2022

“Gender (in)equality in legal divorce: the role of Swiss family lawyers” à la conférence “7th Global Meeting on Law & Society” au ISCTE University Institute of Lisbon, Lisbonne, 13 – 16 juillet 2022

“The role of legal intermediaries in the shaping of divorce agreements: a gendered intermediation process?” à la conférence inaugurale "Voices of Law" de Swiss Network for Law and Society, Lausanne, 15 – 16 septembre 2022

“The negotiation of divorce agreements from the perspective of the divorcees” à la conference “Final Conference on the life course and vulnerabilities” de NCCR LIVES, Genève, 17 – 18 novembre 2022