In the event you are married for less than 3 years and not eligible for divorce, you may still file for annulment of your marriage. This does not 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.
How does an annulment and a divorce affect one’s legal status?
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, parties would return to ‘single’ status legally.
READ MORE ABOUT: WHAT’S THE LEGAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ANNULMENT AND DIVORCE
What are the requirements to get an Annulment?
Given the significant impact of annulling a marriage, the criteria for annulment are strict. There are two types of annulment – the marriage can either be void or voidable.
A void marriage is a marriage that should never have existed. This is a marriage that is not recognised by the law and hence any marital arrangements should not have been made in the first place. These include:-
- Marriages between Muslims that are registered or solemnised under civil law (Section 3(4) Women’s Charter (“WC”));
- When one party is already lawfully married under any law, religion, custom or usage to one or more spouses (Section 5 WC);
- When one party is below the age of 18 at the point of solemnisation and was not authorised by a special marriage license granted by the Minister under Section 21 WC (Section 9 WC);
- Where the parties are within prohibited degrees (i.e certain types of relatives) (Section 10 WC);
- Where the parties are of the same sex (Section 12 WC);
- Where the solemnisation was not carried out in accordance to the requirements under the law (Section 22 WC).
Section 104 WC also provides that parties to a void marriage can apply for a Court judgment declaring and confirming that their marriage is void. However, without a Court judgment declaring and confirming the same, the same result that their marriage is void follows as there has been a breach of the abovementioned sections of the WC.
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 (Section 106(a) WC);
- The marriage has not been consummated due to the either party’s wilful refusal to consummate it (Section 106(b) WC);
- The marriage took place without either party’s valid consent, where the party consented due to duress, mistake, mental disorder or otherwise (Section 106(c) WC);
- The marriage took place while either party was suffering from a mental disorder to such extent that they were unfit for marriage (even though the party may have been capable of giving valid consent) (Section 106(d) WC);
- The other party was suffering from a venereal disease in a communicable form at the time of the marriage (i.e an STI) (Section 106(e) WC);
- The other party was pregnant by another man at the time of the marriage (Section 106(f) WC).
Do note that for grounds under s106(c) to (f) of WC, 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.
READ MORE: ANNULMENT EXPLAINED VIA FLOWCHART
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For Muslim marriages, under the Administration of Muslim Law Act (“AMLA”), annulment of the marriage is only possible when one or both parties renounce Islam.
|Can I get an annulment because…||Answers|
|My spouse cheated on me the day after we got married.||Unless you and your spouse have not consummated the marriage, it cannot be used to annul a marriage. Adultery or Unreasonable behaviour may be a reason to show a breakdown in relationship within the marriage, but it cannot show that the marriage should not have existed in the first place.
In this case, divorce may be a more appropriate solution than annulment – however there are also alternatives available to parties in the interim when parties have not met the 3-year eligibility to divorce. Speak to our experienced family lawyers to find out more.
|I just found out my wife murdered someone||Unless you and your spouse have not consummated the marriage, criminal behaviour, no matter how serious, is not a ground 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, your husband’s second wife may annul their marriage, but you are 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!||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.
|Does it make a difference if my husband divorced X after we married?||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.||Unless you and your spouse have not consummated the marriage, failure 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 and hence the Courts would unlikely annul the marriage.|
Annulments and divorces 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.