Every couple goes through the ups and downs of a relationship, even more so after marriage. While most can sit together and have serious discussions about their marital issues, some eventually find that the marriage is way past the point of fixing.
When there’s no longer hope for reconciliation in the future, couples can get separated through a divorce or annulment of marriage in Singapore.
1. What Is An Annulment Of Marriage And How Is It Different From A Divorce?
An annulment in Singapore is a legal procedure that declares a marriage null and void. Annulled marriages are considered invalid from the beginning as if the couple were never married in the first place.
An annulment isn’t the same as a divorce because a divorce doesn’t deny that the couple was previously married. Couples who have successfully divorced are called “divorcees”.
Additionally, there is only one valid ground for a divorce: the “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage. This can be proven before the Courts through factual evidence of adultery, desertion, separation, or unreasonable behaviour.
Meanwhile, an annulment renders the entire marriage null and void. After a successful annulment in Singapore, the marital status of each party in the marriage reverts to “single”.
Annulment is a possible legal alternative to divorce. If you’re considering filing for an annulment in Singapore, understanding the qualifying grounds is crucial, as they can differ from the grounds for divorce.
2. What Are “Void” And “Voidable Marriages”?
Void marriages are already invalid from the very beginning, even if no annulment has occurred.
Meanwhile, while it is also invalid, a voidable marriage can persist until one party to the marriage considers an annulment.
However, the Court will only consider a marriage void or voidable if it satisfies the following conditions:
One party must prove that the couple could not fulfil the requirements for a valid marriage. (i.e., marriage between a close relative (prohibited in Singapore) or an improperly solemnised/officiated marriage).
Further grounds for a void marriage are outlined under Section 105 of the Women’s Charter:
- Marriage between two Muslims which was solemnised or registered under the Women’s Charter.
- Same-sex marriage (marriage between two people of the same gender, unless one party has undergone sex reassignment surgery.)
- Marriage involving an underage person who was below 18 years old at the time of the marriage
- Marriage to a person already legally married to another under any religion, law, or custom.
One party must prove other grounds for a marriage to be voidable. For example, the marriage was not consummated because one party refused or was incapacitated at the time. Another example is if another man outside of the marriage impregnates the married wife.
Further grounds for a void marriage are outlined under Section 106 of the Women’s Charter:
- There was no valid consent from either party of the marriage. (Due to a mental disorder or any other valid reason)
- The marriage took place with valid consent from the involved parties. However, either party is dealing with a mental disorder to the extent they are unfit for marriage.
- Either party was diagnosed with a sexually-transmitted disease at the time of the marriage.
3. When Can You Annul Your Marriage?
Void marriages in Singapore can be annulled at any time. However, annulment of a voidable marriage must be done within three years since the marriage was officiated unless one party alleges that the marriage is voidable based on the grounds mentioned above.
Further, you don’t need to be a Singaporean citizen to annul a void or voidable marriage. But, the couple must be residing in Singapore at the time when annulment proceedings have begun.
4. Requirements For Annulment Of Marriage In Singapore
A successful marriage annulment in Singapore can be possible once you have provided sufficient evidence before the Courts, proving that the marriage was either void or voidable.
For example, suppose you claim the marriage is voidable because your spouse did not consummate the marriage.
But, you could not provide enough evidence regarding the lack of consummation. In that case, the Court may refuse to grant an annulment.
However, the Court may still refuse the annulment even if you’ve successfully gathered evidence.
For example, the annulment may be unjust to your spouse, or you already had prior knowledge that the marriage was void/voidable. Still, your actions displayed otherwise, leading your spouse to believe you will not annul the marriage.
There was a case of a man being detained for a week because of false claims regarding his reasons for filing for an annulment.
He falsely claimed before the Family Justice Court that he and his wife did not consummate the marriage. But an investigation into the matter proved otherwise. The prosecutor called for jail time, arguing that the man was abusing the court’s power.
Therefore, being truthful about your reasons for annulling your marriage is vital to avoid legal ramifications.
5. Processing For A Marriage Annulment In Singapore
Marriage annulment starts with filing for a writ of annulment. You will also need to submit the following documents in your application:
- Statement of Claim – Outlines your grounds for a marriage annulment.
- Statement of Particulars: Provide sufficient evidence to support your statement of claim.
- Proposed Parenting Plan – If you and your spouse cannot reach a mutual agreement on how your children will be cared for after the annulment, you must prepare a parenting plan outlining the proposed arrangements for child care.
- Agreed Parenting Plan – Document outlining the agreed parenting plan for your children.
- Matrimonial Property Plan – Document outlining your proposed arrangements for any shared HDB flat or housing.
A marriage annulment in Singapore involves two steps: Interim Judgement and Judgement of Nullity.
The Interim Judgement is where either party will submit the stated requirements and support their claims for the ground(s) of annulment.
Meanwhile, the Judgement of Nullity deals with ancillary matters regarding property division, childcare maintenance, matrimonial assets, etc.
After the Judge delivers the Judgement of Nullity, the marriage is considered officially annulled, and your marital status will revert to “single”.
During ancillary proceedings, the Court will deal with ancillary matters such as the division of matrimonial assets, spousal/child maintenance, and child custody.
The Courts consider these same factors before handing down a judgement for annulment, similar to a divorce:
- Division of Matrimonial Assets – Deals with how the property between you and your former spouse will be distributed accordingly. The Courts will divide the matrimonial assets equitably based on direct and indirect contributions (financial and non-financial). Since the annulment of marriages usually happens within the first three years of a marriage, one party may have to withhold their flat to the HDB (Housing and Development Board) if they have not fulfilled the agreed minimum lease duration.
- Child and Spousal Maintenance – The Courts will award a specific sum for child and spousal maintenance based on the former spouse and children’s financial needs and standard of living.
- Child Custody – The Court will decide which party will be granted custody of the children born in the marriage. They will also determine which parent has the authority over custody-related matters, such as education, healthcare, livelihood, etc.
6. What Can You Do If The Court Denies Your Annulment Application?
If the Courts have denied your application for annulment, despite meeting all the conditions and grounds stated above, there are several options to consider:
- Live separately in different households from your spouse until at least three years of the marriage have passed. After which, you will be able to file for a divorce.
- File early for a divorce by proving exceptional hardship and depravity in the marriage.
Conclusion About An Annulment Of Marriage In Singapore
It is entirely possible to file for an annulment on your own. But, the process can be confusing without legal help.
This is because annulment proceedings are complicated and involve a plethora of documents. Further, the legalities surrounding annulment can overwhelm the average individual, potentially increasing the emotional and mental toll of the situation.
Fortunately, the Singapore Family Lawyer is here to help. We’re a team of family and divorce lawyers in Singapore dedicated to providing our clients with professional and tailor-fit legal help with their best interests at heart.
Get a free 30-minute consultation now. We offer professional insights on your case and provide legal advice on the next steps.
Frequently Asked Questions About An Annulment Of Marriage In Singapore
What Will Happen To My Children After A Marriage Is Annulled?
Any children born during a void marriage are still considered legitimate offspring, especially if the parties believed the marriage was valid or legitimate from the start. Children of voidable marriages are still regarded as legitimate children.
How Long Does The Annulment Process Take Place?
An uncontested annulment, or annulment without any party challenging the claims, will take four to six months to process. However, the Court may take longer to hand down a judgement for contested annulments, depending on the nuances and complications of the case.
Can You Remarry After An Annulment In Singapore?
Yes. You can remarry as soon as the Courts hand down a Judgement of Nullity, successfully annulling the marriage.
Should I Get A Divorce Or Annulment In Singapore?
A divorce is much more common than an annulment. It depends on the intricacies of your case, on whether or not you should get a divorce or annulment. Remember that a successful annulment rejects the idea that the marriage ever took place. Meanwhile, a divorce acknowledges the marriage’s existence, but the couple chooses to separate legally after three years.