Every couple goes through the typical ups and downs of a marriage. Some can work through their problems, but some are less successful and eventually want to separate.
For marriages that have lasted less than three years, couples can’t file for a Divorce unless they can prove “exceptional hardship” or “exceptional depravity”.
But, they do have the option to file for an annulment of marriage in Singapore. Since Divorce proceedings can’t begin earlier than three years from the date of marriage, an annulment is the best alternative.
We’ll discuss everything you need to know about filing for an annulment, its differences from a Divorce, and its implications.
1. What Does An Annulment Mean?
An annulment of a marriage is a legal procedure that ends a marriage and declares it invalid. Although it’s similar to a Divorce, there are a few key differences.
Just like a divorce, an annulment brings your marriage to an end. However, whilst a divorce dissolves your marriage, an annulment of marriage means that in the eyes of the law, the marriage never took place.
The main difference between the two is that a divorce ends a valid marriage, while an annulment formally declares a marriage to have been legally invalid from the beginning.
- Divorce: Legally dissolves, terminates, and ends a valid marriage. A successful divorce reverts each party’s marital status to “single”.
- Annulment: Declares a marriage null and void. While an annulment acknowledges the marriage did take place, it considers the marriage legally invalid. However, records of the officiation can still remain on file.
In a Divorce, the Court accepts only one ground: the “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage”. However, the couple must be able to prove this ground by providing evidence of unreasonable behaviour, adultery, separation, or desertion. Meanwhile, the Court may grant an annulment for void and voidable marriages.
The law does not recognise void marriages. These are marriages that are invalid from the beginning for several reasons.
According to law, a marriage is considered void if:
- It involves a marriage between two Muslims which has been registered or solemnised under the Women’s Charter
- It is a same-sex marriage (unless one party in the couple undergoes a sex reassignment surgery).
- It involves an underage party
- The couple is closely related by blood (unless they’re first, second, third cousins, etc.)
- It involves an improperly solemnised marriage
- Either party was still legally married to another person during the time of the marriage.
Voidable marriages are still recognised under the law. However, a party can file for annulment based on the following grounds for a voidable marriage:
- The marriage was not consummated by the couple due to incapacity.
- The couple refuses to consummate the marriage.
- The marriage took place without the consent of either party.
- Either party was undergoing a mental disorder, making them unfit for the marriage (despite having valid consent).
- Either party was afflicted with a sexually-transmitted disease when the marriage began.
- Another man had impregnated the wife during the marriage.
A couple can only file for an annulment for a void or voidable marriage if they meet the above criteria.
The Court will take due diligence in assessing the facts of the case and determine whether or not the marriage is void or voidable.
2. What Are The Conditions For Annulling A Marriage In Singapore?
Aside from meeting the criteria for a void or voidable marriage, they also need to meet certain conditions to file for an annulment:
- Deadline – A marriage annulment can be filed for void marriages at any time, as there is no deadline. However, an annulment must be filed within three years of marriage for voidable marriages.
- Legal Status – Either party doesn’t have to be a Singaporean to file for an annulment. However, both of them should be residing in Singapore when annulment proceedings begin.
3. How Do You File For A Marriage Annulment In Singapore?
If both parties express their valid consent to annul the marriage because they believe it is void or voidable, they should follow this process:
Step 1: File A Writ Of Nullity
The party can begin the annulment process by filing a Writ of Nullity. The following documents should accompany the writ:
- Statement of Claim – States the ground(s) for annulment.
- Statement of Particulars – States facts and evidence to support the grounds for the annulment of marriage.
- Agreed Parenting Plan – States parenting arrangements for children born during the marriage (if any).
- Proposed Parenting Plan – States proposed parenting arrangements for children (if the couple cannot agree).
- Matrimonial Property Plan – States property arrangements for HDB flats, condominiums, houses, etc.
Step 2: The Court Delivers Its Interim Judgement
The Court will hand down its Interim Judgement after you’ve submitted all the legal documents and requirements for an annulment of marriage.
Step 3: Settle Ancillary Matters
After the Court hands down an Interim Judgement, they will settle ancillary matters among the couple.
Ancillary matters may involve the division of matrimonial assets, spousal/child maintenance, child custody, legal costs, etc.
Step 4: The Court Grants A Judgement Of Nullity
Once the Court is satisfied with the grounds for annulment and has met the conditions for a void or voidable marriage, they will hand down a Judgement of Nullity.
The couple is considered annulled at this point, and each party will revert to “single” as their marital status.
Generally, there is no timeframe for the Court to grant an annulment. Most cases are straightforward and uncontested, meaning the couple agree to the terms of annulment.
4. What Happens If The Annulment Is Contested?
If one party challenges the other’s claims to annul the marriage, it will take much more time before the Court reaches a conclusion.
This is because both parties (defendant and plaintiff) must submit evidence to support their claims.
For example, even if the plaintiff knew that the marriage was void from the beginning, they acted the opposite, leading to the defendant believing the marriage was valid.
Or, an annulment may be contested because the defendant believes the separation may be unfair to them.
Remember, despite submitting evidence and proof of the marriage being void or voidable, the Court still needs to assess the facts of the case. Each situation is complex, and the Court’s decision will depend on several factors.
5. What Happens During An Uncontested Annulment?
An uncontested annulment occurs when the couple amicably concludes on the terms of the annulment, spousal/child maintenance, child custody, and other ancillary matters.
The Court can hand down a final judgement usually within four to six months, especially as the case is far less complicated than a contested one.
Further steps are involved in an uncontested annulment:
- One party will submit a Memorandum of Appearance stating they will not contest the annulment.
- The party who filed for annulment must sign the Affidavit of Evidence in Chief. This indicates that the documents they’ve submitted are truthful and accurate.
- The other party expresses their agreement on ancillary matters by signing a Draft Consent Order.
- The party who filed for annulment must attend an Open Court hearing where they’ll be granted annulment and the Draft Consent Order’s order-in-terms.
- The Court will deliver the Final Judgment of Annulment three months after the scheduled hearing.
Conclusion About Marriage Annulment In Singapore
An annulment is a legal procedure that invalidates a marriage or assumes it never happened in the first place.
Couples that want to separate but have not yet passed the three years of marriage may file for an annulment instead of Divorce. Even then, they must prove their union was a voidable or void marriage by presenting evidence and facts to support their claims.
Annulment cases tend to be complex, which is why many people seek help from a Divorce or family lawyer. In addition, the sheer number of documents to file can be overwhelming.
If you want to file for an annulment, contact Tembusu Law. We’re a Singapore law firm offering legal representation in Family Law, Corporate Law, Litigation, Bankruptcy, Criminal Law, and other areas of law.
Frequently Asked Questions About Marriage Annulment In Singapore
What Happens If An Annulment Is Unsuccessful?
A couple has two options if their claim for annulment is unsuccessful or is rejected by the Court:
- (For marriages lasting less than three years) one party can file for Divorce early by proving exceptional depravity or hardship.
- Parties can live separately from each other by signing a Deed of Separation. Then, they can file for Divorce once three years of marriage have passed.
What Happens To An HDB Flat After Divorce?
According to the Housing and Development Board, buyers must surrender the flat to the board if they don’t meet the minimum occupation period of five years. If you file for an annulment within the first three years of marriage, you’ll probably have to surrender the HDB flat.
What Will Happen To The Children After An Annulment?
Before the Court hands down its Final Judgement of Annulment/Nullity, it will require the parents to settle child custody plans during the ancillary phase.
Regarding the legitimacy status of the children:
- Void Marriages – Kids born out of void marriages are considered legitimate children.
- Voidable Marriages – Kids born from voidable marriages are still regarded as legitimate.
How Much Is An Annulment In Singapore?
We always try to work within a budget that’s comfortable and fair for everyone. This generally depends on the scope and amount of work involved – we can discuss and agree on this when we talk to you about your case to understand the current situation, and then work out a feasible budget together including via instalment payments if necessary to assist you. Contact Tembusu Law for more information on our legal fees.