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Getting An Annulment in Singapore: Things To Know

Choosing to end a marriage is a monumental decision, and going through the process of divorce is often a painful time for all parties involved, even if it was amicable. However, divorce is not the only option available and may not even be the most suitable solution for some couples. An option that many overlook is obtaining an annulment of marriage. As such, this article will discuss when annulment is suitable, as well as the process and requirements of obtaining an annulment so that couples can make an informed decision.

What Is An Annulment?

 

An annulment refers to the legal process in which a marriage is dissolved and considered null. In essence, the marriage will be treated as if it has never existed. This process originated from old English religious laws. As the Church did not recognise divorce, the annulment process was created as a way to dissolve unhappy unions without going against the law. 

After an annulment, both parties legally return to ‚Äėsingle‚Äô status. This is different from a divorce whereby both parties are given the legal status of ‚Äėdivorced‚Äô. Annulment may thus be appealing to couples who would like to avoid the possible stigma associated with being divorced. Another reason why annulment is a better option for some couples is that they do not have to wait for a minimum period of 3 years from the date of their marriage to apply for one, which is a requirement for divorce in Singapore.¬†

Preparing For An Annulment In Singapore

 

In general, there are 3 things that couples need to prepare before filing for an annulment in Singapore. They are: 

 

1. Proof that the marriage is void or voidable

 

The most important thing to remember is that for an annulment to be granted, there needs to be proof that the marriage is not valid. This means that the marriage must be either void or voidable. 

 

Void marriages refer to marriages that are invalid from the very beginning. In such cases, as long as one party has proof that there was some failure in obtaining a valid marriage in Singapore, an annulment can be obtained. Void marriages include those that are:

 

  • Improperly solemnised i.e. the marriage was not solemnised on authority of a valid marriage license issued by a Registrar or person who has a license to solemnise marriages; if there were less than two credible witnesses, or if there was no consent between parties.
  • Unions in which both parties are related to a certain degree
  • Unions in which one or both parties are below the age of 18 and a special marriage license was not obtained¬†
  • Polygamous¬†
  • Unions in which both parties are the same gender¬†
  • Unions between 2 Muslims that are solemnised under the Women‚Äôs Charter
  • Invalid overseas marriages by virtue of the law of the country where it was celebrated
  • Marriages of convenience
 

On the other hand, a voidable marriage refers to a union that may have been valid at the time of the union but due to certain circumstances, it has been rendered invalid. Similarly, one party has to show proof of the marriage being voidable before an annulment can be granted. Voidable marriages refer to those that:

 

  • Have not been consummated due to either party being incapable of consummating the marriage
  • Have not been consummated due to¬† one of the party‚Äôs refusal to consummate the marriage without good reason
  • Were not validly consented to by either party, for example, due to duress, mistake, mental disorder or otherwise
  • Has one of the parties suffering from a transmissible venereal disease at the time of the marriage that the other party did not know about
  • The wife was pregnant by another person at the time of marriage and the husband was not aware of the fact
  • Has one of the parties suffering from a mental disorder at the time of marriage such that he or she was unfit for marriage
 

As the Court can refuse to grant an annulment if the evidence is not sufficient, the help of a good divorce lawyer can ensure that there is enough valid and useful proof alluding to a void or voidable marriage.

 
2. Apply for an annulment within 3 years 

 

This is only applicable for voidable marriages. If a spouse wants to annul a marriage due to special circumstances rendering it invalid, they will have to file for annulment within 3 years. The only exception where proof of voidable marriage is accepted for long marriages is when there is evidence of nonconsumption of the marriage either due to the refusal or incapacity of one party or both parties. 

For void marriages, there is typically no time limit. 

 

3. Decide on ancillary matters 

 

Similar to the divorce process, the Courts will grant an Interim Judgement before moving to settle on ancillary matters such as division of matrimonial assets, spousal maintenance, child custody and maintenance (if applicable) if the married couples have not reached an agreement on them beforehand. As such, the courts will consider the same factors in splitting the assets for an annulment as for a divorce. Do take note that ancillary proceedings are only applicable for annulments of voidable marriages and not void marriages as void marriages are considered invalid from the beginning. 

 

Married couples are encouraged to try to reach an agreement regarding ancillary matters so that the annulment process can proceed as smoothly and quickly as possible. This includes reaching an agreement on custody, care and control of and access to children (if any), division of matrimonial assets, and spousal/child maintenance. 

 

For couples who own a flat from the Housing Development Board (HDB), it is crucial that they present a matrimonial property plan detailing the proposed arrangements. This is because most annulments are applied within 3 years, which is below HDB’s minimum occupancy period of 5 years. In most cases, the flat is returned to HDB. Nevertheless, if a couple wants to retain the HDB flat after their marriage has been annulled, they can consult a divorce or family lawyer to discuss their options.

Filing For An Annulment in Singapore 

 

Since the annulment process, like most legal procedures, can be complex, a divorce or family lawyer in Singapore should be engaged to prepare the necessary documents. The documents to file to obtain an annulment include: 

 

 

  • A Writ for Nullity – a document that commences the annulment process.¬†
  • Statement of Claim – a court document that details the grounds of the annulment¬†
  • Statement of Particulars – a court document that consists of the facts supporting the grounds for annulment.¬†
  • A Proposed/Agreed Parenting Plan – a document that details the proposed arrangements for the children (if any)
  • A Proposed/Agreed Matrimonial Property Plan – This is applicable for couples who own an HDB flat together and is a document that details the proposed arrangements for the said property.¬†
 

 

These documents will be filed with the Family Justice Courts and served on Defendant, who may file a Memorandum of Appearance stating whether or not they intend to contest the annulment.

 

 

If the annulment is uncontested, a date for an uncontested court hearing will be set, and both parties must attend. Before issuing an Interim Judgement, the Judge will ask both parties a few questions during the hearing. However, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Judge may grant an Interim Judgement without requiring both parties to appear if no further questions are required. Three months after the issuance of the Interim Judgment, a Judgement of Nullity will be issued, bringing the annulment proceedings to a close and the marriage is then officially annulled.

 

 

All in all, an uncontested annulment process will take approximately 4 to 5 months to complete. If, on the other hand, the Defendant contests the annulment, the process will likely be a much longer one.

annulment in singapore

Conclusion 

 

For married couples who wish to end their union, it is good practice to consider the various different options available before deciding to settle on one. Whether they are considering a divorce or annulment, couples will benefit greatly from consulting an experienced divorce lawyer who can provide sound legal advice and help to navigate the complexities of the legal landscape in Singapore. 

 

Lie Chin Chin has a dedicated team of divorce and family lawyers to guide you through the divorce process in Singapore. Contact us today to find out more