Annulment in Singapore - Overview, Process & FAQs
Annulment in Singapore - Overview
Under the law, an annulment is a legal process where a marriage is dissolved and treated as never existed. An annulled marriage would declare that the marriage was never valid i.e. the marriage will be considered null and void.
This would mean that parties’ status would return to single and would not be labelled as a “divorcee”.
One must bear in mind that the grounds for the annulment of marriage are different from the usual grounds for divorce.
Briefly, under the Women’s Charter, there are two types of marriages that qualify for an annulment – Void and Voidable marriages.
Types of Marriages that are Voidable
Avoidable marriage is one that is flawed in its validity but continues to exist. Voidable marriages will only be invalid after one party commences proceedings to have the marriage be declared void.
There is a time limit of 3 years of marriage in the event one party wishes to apply to annul a voidable marriage.
Related Article: I have been married for less than 3 years, can I get a divorce?
Section 106 of the Women’s Charter set out various grounds as follows:
- Marriages that have not been consummated owing to either party’s incapacity to do so;
- Marriages that have not been consummated owing to either party’s wilful refusal;
- Marriages that have taken place without either party’s valid consent (due to duress, mistake or mental disorder);
- Where at the time of marriage parties had validly consented to the marriage but one party was suffering from a mental disorder that left them unfit for marriage;
- Where at the time of marriage, one party was suffering from venereal disease in a communicable form;
- Where at the time of marriage, the wife was pregnant by another person other than the husband.
Types of Marrigaes that are Void
A void marriage is one that is invalid from the very beginning of the marriage i.e. no marriage between parties.
This means that even if a party does not formally commence proceedings, the marriage continues to be an invalid one. As such, there is no time limit for when a party must apply to annul a void marriage.
However, it is encouraged to obtain a judgment of nullity as there may be practical advantages to doing so.
For instance, parties can be assured that the Court has certified the marriage to be void and parties may then apply for matrimonial relief for the ancillary matters (if any).
Section 105 of the Women’s Charter set out various circumstances as follows:
- Marriages between Muslims that are registered / solemnised under civil law;
- Marriages where one party is underaged i.e. below 18 years old without special marriage licence;
- Marriages where one party is already married;
- Marriages between close relatives;
- Marriages between people of the same gender;
- Marriages which are not properly solemnised.
Take note that the parties involved in an annulment need not be Singaporean so long as either the party or the party’s spouse has been living in Singapore as at the time of filing for the proceeding.
Annulment Process in Singapore
An application has to be filed in Court and served personally on Defendant. The Defendant will then be required to enter an appearance by indicating whether he or she will be contesting the annulment or not.
It is important to state the reason for the annulment and to provide sufficient evidence of the same.
In addition, parties are reminded to be truthful when filing for annulment. Lying before a Court is a serious offence and may be liable to a fine or jail.
Uncontested Annulment Hearing
Should the matter be uncontested, the Plaintiff would set down the case and be given an uncontested court hearing date.
Prior to the current pandemic, parties’ attendance in Court hearing is compulsory, wherein the Judge will pose certain questions to parties before granting the Interim Judgment.
Presently, in view of the Covid-19 situation, the Court is likely to grant the Interim Judgment administratively should there be no further clarifications required.
This means that parties are not required to attend the Court hearing. The current process (if uncontested) is much less stressful than before.
Once Interim Judgment is granted, it would be made final after 3 months.
The entire process may take about 4 to 5 months to complete from the time of filing of the papers, should the matter be uncontested and/or that the Defendant fully cooperates in the matter.
However, in the event the Defendant contests the annulment process, the matter may drag on depending on the facts and complexity of the case.
Related Topic: What is an Uncontested Divorce in Singapore?
You are able to represent yourself if you wish. However, we strongly recommend that you engage counsel for advice and for assistance especially in the drafting of documents. Examples of the relevant documents to be filed are as follows:
- Statement of Claim which states the reason for annulment;
- Statement of Particulars which sets out the particulars supporting your reason for annulment;
- Matrimonial Property Plan (if any);
- Proposed / Agreed Parenting Plan (if any).
There are many documents required to draft and submit on time. Being involved in a legal matter can be confusing without a counsel.
If you are considering filing an annulment application and require advice, we are able to assist you.
If your application is successful and the marriage is annulled, the Court will grant a Judgment of Nullity, which dissolves the marriage entirely.
Do note that if there are any children born in the marriage, the children will still be considered legitimate children of that marriage.
Should the application be unsuccessful, and parties have been married for less than 3 years (i.e. unable to obtain a divorce), parties may living separately from each other until the 3 year mark is up in order to file for divorce.
In the interim, parties may contemplate executing a Deed of Separation to set out their terms. In the alternative, you may consider filing for early divorce by proving exceptional hardship.
Annulment in Singapore - FAQs
Do I have to be Singaporean to file for an annulment proceeding?
No. You are not required to be a Singaporean to apply for an annulment. However, you and your spouse must be habitually resident in Singapore when you commence the annulment application.
How do divorce and annulment proceedings differ?
Mainly, an annulment dissolves the marriage and declares that it technically never existed in the first place.
As such, parties’ marital status will return to single and will not be referred to as “divorcees”.
A divorce on the other hand terminates a marriage without denying its existence.
It is noteworthy that parties who are married for less than 3 years, are unable to obtain a divorce in Singapore.
Evidence for annulment?
The evidence differs depending on what reasons you are relying on. If the marriage is one that is voidable due to either party’s incapability to consummate the marriage, a medical report must be produced.
What happens to your HDB flat post-annulment?
The general rule is that HDB will not allow parties to retain or sell the flat. It will most likely be surrendered to HDB.
In the event you wish to retain the HDB, you may do so subject to HDB’s approval. This may involve retaining the flat under a different scheme and filing an appeal to HDB.
Related Article: Annulment of Marriage: What Happens to your HDB Flat
What happens if the annulment application is not granted?
You can consider waiting until the 3 year mark of your marriage. In the interim, parties can live separate and apart from each other.
In this instance, parties may consider executing a Deed of Separation.
Alternatively, you may consider seeking the Court’s leave to grant a divorce early.
However, you have to show exceptional hardship and/or depravity suffered by you during the marriage due to your spouse’s behaviour.
Note that this is a high threshold to cross and it is best you seek legal advice.
Do I have to attend the Court hearing presently?
In light of the Covid-19 situation, parties are not required to attend a Court hearing before the Judge, if the matter proceeds on an uncontested basis.
This means that the Judge may grant Interim Judgment administratively so long as no further clarification is required.
Thus, drafting of the papers and setting out the reason and facts for annulment are crucial when it comes to an annulment application. Engaging divorce lawyers to assist you in the same can be of great help.