Is Annulment a Quick Fix for a Broken Marriage?

Is Annulment a Quick Fix for a Broken Marriage?

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While you cannot file for divorce within 3 years of your marriage (bar exceptional circumstances), you may still file for annulment of your marriage at any time. This doesn’t mean, however, that an annulment will help you get out of a prematurely broken marriage. Annulments have their own strict set of criteria and implications; hence it may not be an ideal (or even possible!) solution for everyone.

What is the difference between an annulment and a divorce?
A divorce is a legal end to the marriage. Parties in this case would be legally considered ‘divorced’ and not ‘single’. An annulment, on the other hand, is a procedure that completely dissolves and declares a marriage null and void – in essence, the marriage is taken to have never existed. As a result, the parties would return to ‘single’ status legally.

Furthermore, divorces are not permitted within 3 years of marriage, but this requirement does not apply for annulments.

Finally, foreigners can only apply for divorces if they are habitually resident in Singapore for at least 3 years from the filing of the divorce. In contrast, so long as both parties are present in Singapore, foreigners may apply for annulment.

So what are the requirements to get an annulment?
Given the significant impact of annulling a marriage, the criteria for annulment is strict. Your marriage can only be annulled by showing the marriage is either void or voidable. Do note that the grounds for divorce do not apply to annulments.

Void
A void marriage is a marriage that should never have existed. This is typically a marriage that is not recognised by the law and hence any marital arrangement should not have been made in the first place. According to the Women’s Charter, in proving a void marriage, the party would have to prove that one of the following facts existed:

  • Marriages between Muslims that are registered or solemnised under civil law ([s3(4)]
  • When one party is already lawfully married under any law, religion, custom or usage to one or more spouses [s5(1), s4(1), s11]
  • When one party is below the age of 18 at the point of solemnization and was not authorised by a special marriage license granted by the Minister under s 21 [s9]
  • Where the parties are within prohibited degrees (ie. Certain types of relatives) [s10]
  • Where the parties are of the same sex [s12]
  • Where the solemnization was not carried in accordance to the requirements under the law [s22]

Voidable
A voidable marriage means that the marriage is existing at this point in time, but the parties have grounds to declare the marriage null and void. In essence, the marriage is existing only because the parties have not chosen to annul the marriage. To annul a marriage in such a situation, the party has to prove one of the following criteria:

  • The marriage has not been consummated due to the either party’s incapacity to consummate it [s106(a)]
  • The marriage has not been consummated due to the other party’s wilful refusal to consummate it [s106(b)]
  • The marriage took place without either party’s valid consent, where the party consented due to duress, mistake, mental disorder or otherwise [s106(c)]
  • The marriage took place while either party was suffering from a mental disorder to such extent that they were unfit for marriage (even though party may have been capable of giving valid consent) [s106(d)]
  • The other party was suffering from a venereal disease in a communicable form at the time of marriage (ie an STI) [s106(e)]
  • The other party was pregnant by another man at the time of marriage [s106(f)]

Do note that for grounds under s106(c)-(f) of the Women’s Charter, the application for annulment must commence within 3 years from the date of marriage for it to be valid. Additionally, the party seeking to annul must show that he was unaware of these facts at the time of the marriage.

In any case, annulments would not be granted if the court deems that it would be unjust to the other party to award the annulment.

Muslim Marriages
For Muslim marriages, under the AMLA, annulment of the marriage is only possible when one or both parties renounce Islam.

Can I get an annulment because… Answers
My husband cheated on me the day after we got married. While your husband’s behaviour was certainly regrettable, it cannot be used to annul a marriage. Adultery may be a reason to show a breakdown in relationships within the marriage, but it cannot show that the marriage shouldn’t have existed in the first place.

In this case, divorce may be a more appropriate solution than annulment – but there are also other alternatives to divorce. Speak to our experienced family lawyers to find out more.

I just found out my wife murdered someone Criminal behaviour, no matter how serious, is not an acceptable grounds for annulment.
My husband just married someone else Marriage to someone else can be a reason to annul your marriage – but only if the marriage was before your marriage.

The law does not recognise a second marriage – in this case the other wife may annul the marriage, but you would be unable to. You may try to file for divorce on unreasonable behaviour instead.

My husband was already married to X when he married me. My ex-boyfriend found out and now he wants to annul my marriage even though I don’t want to!

Does it make a difference if my husband divorced X after we married?

The short answer: yes, your ex-boyfriend is likely able to annul your marriage against your will.

If someone gets married while they were already married, the second marriage is void; which means that the marriage never existed. Contrast this to voidable marriages, where the marriage is existing unless one of the parties decides to make it void. In other words, a third party can annul a void marriage since it is a marriage that the law had not recognised. A third party cannot annul a voidable marriage since that is a decision by the parties involved.

Whether your husband has since divorced the first wife is irrelevant; your marriage was never recognised legally in the first place. However, this does mean that you can still choose to marry your husband again.

My wife’s parents promised to pay me $10,000 to marry their daughter and now they refuse to pay Failing to honour promises is not a ground to annul a marriage.
We’ve been married for 30 years and I just found out that the child my wife was pregnant with when we were married is not mine. Being married while pregnant with another man’s child is a valid ground for annulment. However, this right to annul would only be valid 3 years from the date of marriage. In the current case, your marriage has exceeded the 3-year timeline, hence the courts would unlikely annul the marriage

Annulments and divorce are very complex and confusing legal issues. An experienced divorce lawyer would be able to help to understand the differences and choose the more appropriate path depending on your situation.

Should you require legal representation, kindly contact Gloria James-Civetta & Co for a free 30 minute consultation with one of our family lawyers.
Call us on +65 6337 0469
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