Let us Explain…
What is an Annulment? Is it different from a divorce?
An annulment is a legal procedure to dissolve a marriage, declaring it null and void (as if it never took place). However, unlike divorce proceedings in Singapore, an annulment works on the basis that the marriage never properly existed in the first place.
You could consider a nullified marriage as an alternative to divorce. However, one must bear in mind the qualifying grounds for an annulment of marriage, are very different than the typical grounds for divorce.
Does my marriage qualify for an annulment?
The Women’s Charter separates annullable marriages into ‘Void’ and ‘Voidable’ marriages. (If a marriage is ‘Void’, it automatically never existed. If a marriage is ‘Voidable’, it can be annulled only under certain conditions.
The following marriages are void:
(a) A marriage between persons who are Muslims
(b) Anyone who is already lawfully married to a spouse under any law, religion, custom or usage.
(c) A marriage between persons below the age of 18 years, unless specially authorized by the Minister (under s. 21 of the Women’s Charter).
(d) A marriage within specific degrees of kindred and affinity (as defined in the First Schedule of the Women’s Charter).
(e) A marriage in which either party is already married under any law, religion, custom or usage to another person.
(f) A marriage that has not been solemnized in the presence of 2 or more witnesses
– on the authority of a valid marriage license,
– by the Registrar or someone who has been granted a license to solemnize the marriage.
The following marriages are voidable:
(g) Unconsummated marriages, due to one party being either unable or unwilling to consummate it
(h) A marriage that has not been validly consented to, due to one party consenting under duress, by mistake, or with a mental disorder, etc.
(i) A marriage that was validly consented to but, at the time of marriage, one party was suffering from a mental disorder that left them unfit for marriage (as defined in the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) Act 2008)
(j) A marriage where, at the time of marriage, the Defendant was suffering from a communicable sexually-transmitted disease
(k) A marriage where, at the time of marriage, the Defendant was pregnant by someone other than the Plaintiff.
What happens after the Annulment?
If a Plaintiff is successful in proving that the marriage is annullable, the court will grant a Judgement of Nullity, effectively dissolving the marriage. Any children born in the marriage will still be considered legitimate children.
Annulments can be confusing and intimidating. However, with a clear understanding of what to do, and the advice of a divorce lawyer, an annulment may provide you with a viable alternative to divorce.