Can you Bring Annulment Proceedings in Singapore?

annulment marriage singapore

 

If you’ve been married for less than three years, it’s usually not possible to end your marriage through divorce, unless you’re able to prove certain exceptional circumstances.

However, there is one other way to end your marriage if your marriage hasn’t hit the three year mark yet. It’s called annulment and you’ll have to meet certain conditions for your marriage to qualify for it.

So what exactly is Annulment and how is it Different from Divorce?

 A divorce lawyer will probably tell you that an annulment declares your marriage “null and void”. Essentially, what this means is that an annulment is the legal procedure by which a marriage is basically erased from existence. The legal effect of annulment is that the marriage never took place at all. This is different from a divorce, where the legal effect is to end the marriage with full recognition of its existence.

Under the Women’s Charter, two categories of marriages qualify to be annulled in Singapore:-

1) Void; and

2) Voidable.

Marriages that are considered Void in Singapore

A void marriage is a marriage that is not legally valid to begin with. In other words, a marriage is considered void when its formation was so flawed that it does not comply with the requirements of Singapore law for a valid marriage.

In Singapore law, parties to a void marriage may apply to the Family Court for a judgment that definitively declares that the parties’ marriage has failed and resulted in a void marriage. However, some parties may choose not to proceed with getting this judgment as a void marriage remains void and will not be valid under Singapore law.

What are the requirements for a Void Marriage?

The requirements for a void marriage can be found in Section 105 of the Women’s Charter.

Section 105 Women’s Charter

A marriage which takes place after 1st June 1981 shall be void on the following grounds only:

(a) that it is not a valid marriage by virtue of sections 3(4), 5, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 22;

(aa) where the marriage was solemnized on or after the date of commencement of section 6 of the Women’s Charter (Amendment) Act 2016, that it is not a valid marriage by virtue of section 11A; or

(b) where the marriage was celebrated outside Singapore, that the marriage is invalid —

(i) for lack of capacity; or

(ii) by the law of the place in which it was celebrated.

We have listed out the necessary sections of the Women’s Charter to make things easier to understand. Essentially, a marriage will only be considered void in these circumstances:-

  • Section 3(4) Women’s Charter – Marriages between Muslims that are registered/solemnized under civil law and not the Administration of Muslim Law Act.
  • Section 5(1) and Section 11 Women’s Charter – Where one party is already married under any law, religion or custom.
  • Section 9 Women’s Charter – Where one party is below the age of 18 and has not been granted special authorization by the Minister of Social Affairs.
  • Section 10 Women’s Charter – Where parties married within the prohibited degrees. (certain categories of persons who are closely related, such as mothers/fathers and children, brothers and sisters, etc)
  • Section 22 Women’s Charter – Where the marriage was not properly solemnized under the law (i.e. The marriage was (i) not solemnized by the Registrar or a person who has a licence to solemnize marriages, and (ii) not solemnized before 2 credible witnesses_.
  • Section 12 Women’s Charter – Where the marriage was between parties of the same-sex.
  • Section 105(b) Women’s Charter – Where the marriage was celebrated outside Singapore, the marriage is invalid for lack of capacity or invalid by the law of the place in which it was celebrated.

Marriages that are considered Voidable in Singapore

A voidable marriage is one where, provided certain conditions are met, either party to the marriage has the option to obtain a judgment of nullity of marriage or to continue with the marriage as a valid marriage.

The difference between a voidable marriage and a void marriage is that a voidable marriage is legally valid until a judgment of nullity is obtained whereas a void marriage is void from the very start.

What are the requirements for a Voidable Marriage?

The requirements for a voidable marriage can be found in Section 106 of the Women’s Charter.

Section 106 Women’s Charter

A marriage which takes place after 1st June 1981 shall be voidable on the following grounds only:

(a) that the marriage has not been consummated owing to the incapacity of either party to consummate it;

(b) that the marriage has not been consummated owing to the wilful refusal of the defendant to consummate it;

(c) that either party to the marriage did not validly consent to it, whether in consequence of duress, mistake, mental disorder or otherwise;

(d) that at the time of the marriage either party, though capable of giving a valid consent, was suffering (whether continuously or intermittently) from mental disorder within the meaning of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) Act 2008 of such a kind or to such an extent as to be unfit for marriage;

(e) that at the time of the marriage the defendant was suffering from venereal disease in a communicable form;

(f) that at the time of the marriage the defendant was pregnant by some person other than the plaintiff.

Are there Uncontested Annulment Proceedings similar to Uncontested Divorce Proceedings?

Yes, there are. The application for Uncontested Annulment Proceedings is very similar to Uncontested Divorce Proceedings and many of the advantages that apply to uncontested divorce apply to uncontested annulment proceedings as well. The main difference is that the filing party’s attendance is compulsory for a court hearing.

How long will Uncontested Annulment Proceedings Take?

Similar to Uncontested Divorce Proceedings, the entire process usually takes four to six months if there is no contest to the annulment.


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