You just got married and it isn’t working out – must you wait three years before ending it? No, you might not have to.
Under Singapore law, parties (who satisfy the jurisdiction requirement) have to wait three (3) years from the date of marriage before they can commence a divorce.
However, parties can apply for the marriage to be annulled even before three (3) years from their date of marriage, if parties can show that their marriage is a void or voidable one.
What is a void or voidable marriage?
A void marriage is one that has been invalidly formed since the start of marriage, even if parties decide not to formally annul the marriage.
For a void marriage, one will have to prove that there was a failure to comply with the requirements for a valid marriage. This would include situations under Section 105 of the Women’s Charter. For example, a marriage is void where one party was below the minimum age for marriage, or where it was a marriage of convenience.
A voidable marriage is one that will continue to exist, until one party annuls the marriage.
For a voidable marriage, one will have to prove one of the six reasons set out under Section 106 of the Women’s Charter:
1. The marriage has not been consummated owing to the incapacity of either party to consummate it;
2. The marriage has not been consummated owing to the wilful refusal of the defendant to consummate it;
3. Either party to the marriage did not validly consent to it, whether in consequence of duress, mistake, mental disorder or otherwise;
4. Either party, at the time of the marriage, though capable of giving a valid consent, was suffering (whether continuously or intermittently) from mental disorder of such a kind or to such an extent as to be unfit for marriage;
5. The defendant was suffering from venereal disease in a communicable form at the time of the marriage;
6. The defendant was pregnant by some person other than the plaintiff at the time of the marriage
If one or more of the reasons listed above apply to you and your spouse, you may be able to make an application to the Courts invalidate your marriage. This is known as Annulment.
From our experience, the most common ground of annulment is usually when one party alleges that the other has wilfully refused to consummate the marriage despite his/her attempts at consummation.
What exactly is Annulment and how does it differ from a Divorce?
An Annulment is a legal process to dissolve a marriage, effectively declaring that a marriage never existed in the first place.
While both Annulment and Divorce dissolve marriages, they differ in terms of how a marriage is treated. An Annulment declares that a marriage never existed, while, a Divorce treats the marriage as having existed previously.
There are also different reasons for an Annulment and Divorce in Singapore. You may find out more about the divorce process.
Process for Annulling a Marriage
The process for annulling a marriage in Singapore involves two stages.
The first stage involves proving the ground(s) of annulment of your marriage, where an Interim Judgment would be granted by the Court thereafter. You will need to file the following documents:
- Writ of Nullity
- Statement of Claim, which sets out the ground(s) of annulment you are seeking to rely on;
- Statement of Particulars, which will detail the relevant facts in support of your ground(s) of annulment;
- Proposed/Agreed Parenting Plan (if there are children of the marriage);
- Proposed/Agreed Matrimonial Property Plan (if there is a HDB flat involved)
The second stage involves the determination of ancillary matters, including the custody of any child of the marriage, maintenance, and division of matrimonial assets (if any). After the conclusion of the second stage, the Court will grant a Judgment of Nullity, where the marriage is successfully annulled.
The process, documents required, and timelines will look different for uncontested and contested annulments:
Around 3 months after the hearing, the Court will grant the Final Judgment of Nullity.
|1. Once the documents above are filed in Court, they will also be served on your spouse. Your spouse will have to sign the Acknowledgment of Service.
2. Where your spouse is contesting the annulment, he/she will have to indicate accordingly on a document known as the Memorandum of Appearance.
3. Where the ground(s) of the annulment is contested, the party who makes the application has to be ready to defend the application with proof.
4. Where the ancillary matters are contested, the matter will proceed to an Ancillary Matters Hearing, where the court will decide on ancillary issues.
|Additional Documents Required||
|Timeline||For an uncontested annulment, the whole annulment process, from the moment you engage solicitors, to obtaining a Judgment of Nullity, will take around 4-6 months.||For a contested annulment, the process could take longer than 6 months, depending on the complexity of the contested issues at trial.|
What happens in an Open Court annulment hearing?
Parties will have to appear in open Court before a Judge to answer some questions before an annulment is granted by the Court.
What happens if my spouse contests the Annulment?
An annulment would be straightforward and expeditious where the other party agrees to the ground of annulment. Therefore, it is best if both parties can agree to the annulment. In the event that the other party contests the ground of annulment, the party who makes the application has to be ready to defend the application with proof. Evidence to prove each ground of annulment is different and your lawyers will be able to advise you on the evidence required.
What happens after a successful Annulment of Marriage?
Once a marriage has been annulled successfully (this includes a three-month period after the Court approves the annulment), the marriage would be considered to have never existed.
This means that in an annulment, your marital status will revert to “single”, as opposed to a divorce, where your marital status will be “divorcee”.
Will I need a lawyer for this?
While you would be able to file for annulment on your own, the annulment process can be challenging and confusing to navigate on your own. To file for annulment, there are many documents that need to be submitted to the Courts. In addition, attendance in Court may be required as well.
Our experienced team will be happy to assist you in this complex process, and you may wish to contact us for further information on our annulment services.