Understanding the difference between an annulment and a divorce
If you’re looking to get out of your marriage, it would be useful to note the 2 different legal routes you can take: divorce and annulment.
Depending on your particular circumstance, you may want to note the key differences between the two to determine which you may be best suited for.
- The first key difference is the effect each route has on your marital status post-proceedings. Divorce terminates a marriage that has irretrievably broken down. As a result, parties will become ‘divorced’ or ‘divorcees’.
In contrast, an annulment declares the marriage null and void, as if it had never existed. Accordingly, unlike a divorce, parties revert back to being ‘single’ post-annulment.
- Second, while it is possible to consider an annulled marriage as an alternative to divorce, one must bear in mind the qualifying grounds for an annulment of marriage — they differ greatly from divorce.
To get a divorce in Singapore, an applicant will have to prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
In comparison, applicants of an annulment will have to prove that the marriage was void (i.e. a marriage that is not recognised by the law and is not valid) or voidable (i.e. a marriage that continues to exist, but parties have grounds to declare the marriage null and void).
The specific criteria to fulfil for annulment will be discussed further below.
- Lastly, time limits and requirements. Parties will not be able to file for a divorce unless parties have been married for 3 years. This is unless there was “exceptional hardship” or “depravity” suffered by a party during the marriage. However, this is not an easy threshold to meet.
A possible alternative would be for that party to file for an annulment instead. An important point to note is that while the annulment of a marriage is a possible alternative to divorce, it should not be considered an easy or quick way out of a marriage.
A man was recently jailed for lying in Court that his wife had refused to consummate the marriage, in an effort to annul his marriage rather than go through a divorce.
Aside from saving costs on divorce proceedings, he also wanted to avoid being labelled a divorcee. As will be elaborated on further below, there are strict criteria to be fulfilled to be able to annul your marriage.
If in doubt, our experienced divorce lawyers can advise you whether annulment would be a viable course of action for you.
Can I get an annulment? Do I fulfil the requirements for an annulment?
There are strict criteria that you will have to fulfil in order to annul your marriage, and these grounds differ depending on whether you are looking to prove that the marriage is void, or voidable.
To prove that a marriage is void, you will need to show that the marriage is not recognised by the law due to the failure to fulfil certain legal requirements under the Women’s Charter.
- Underage marriages
- Marriages between close relatives
- Bigamous or polygamous marriages
- Marriages between persons of the same sex
- Marriages that have not been properly solemnised
- Marriages between two Muslims solemnised under the Women’s Charter instead of under Muslim law
On the other hand, to prove that a marriage is voidable, you will need to prove one of the following:
- Non-consummation of marriage due to either party’s incapacity or a wilful refusal to do so;
- The marriage had taken place without either party’s valid consent, such as where consent was given under a state of duress, mistake, mental disorder, or otherwise;
- The marriage took place while either party was suffering from a mental disorder such that they were unfit for marriage (even though the party may have been capable of giving valid consent);
- The other party to the marriage was suffering from a communicable sexually transmitted disease at the time of marriage;
- That at the time of the marriage, the defendant was pregnant by some other person other than the applicant.
Can your marriage can be annulled?
While there is no time limit for a void marriage, an annulment of a voidable marriage must be applied for within 3 years if relying on the following grounds:
- That either party had not validly consented to the marriage;
- That either party was suffering from a mental disorder such that they are unfit for marriage;
- That the other party was suffering from a communicable sexually transmitted disease; or
- That the other party was pregnant by some other person at the time of the marriage.
To guide you through this difficult time and process, it is highly recommended for you to engage a good divorce lawyer attuned to court processes.
Aside from saving you from a headache, your lawyer would also be in the best position to provide you with tailored advice aimed at helping you to achieve your desired outcome.
Engaging a good divorce lawyer will also save you a lot of time, allowing you to focus on other important aspects of your life.
How do I apply for an annulment? What is the application procedure for an annulment?
The annulment application begins with the filing of a Writ for Nullity.
Documents to be submitted with the writ include the following:
- Statement of Claim;
- Statement of Particulars;
- Parenting plan (if any children); and
- Matrimonial property plan (if any HDB or matrimonial assets to be divided).
A copy of these documents must also be served on your spouse.
Following the entry of appearance from your spouse, and the setting down of the matter, a hearing date will then be set.
It will be compulsory for you (the applicant) to attend this hearing. During the hearing, you will be cross-examined about the contents of your Statement of Claim and Statement of Particulars, regarding:
- the marriage;
- the grounds on which the action is founded i.e. how or why the marriage is void or voidable
These procedures apply only for uncontested proceedings (i.e. where you and your spouse agree on all points of the annulment). Additional documents may need to be prepared and filed in the event of a contested annulment.
If all is in order, you will be granted the Interim Judgment, which will be made final after 3 months.
What happens after an annulment?
After a successful annulment, your marital status will revert to ‘single’.
If your annulment application was unsuccessful, you may want to consider other options such as divorce.
I have a question about the annulment of marriages! Can I get an annulment because…?
Annulments and divorces can be complex and confusing legal issues. Our experienced divorce lawyers will be able to help to assess your case.