Many reasons why marriages come to an end
There are many reasons as to why a marriage comes to an end. According to the Singapore Department of Statistics Report, the top two main reasons for divorces in 2016 are “unreasonable behaviour” (53.5%) and “having lived apart or separated for three years or more” (42.5%). The median marriage duration for divorces is 10.0 years while the median duration of marriages that were annulled in 2016 is two years.
So, what exactly can you do if you are married for less than three years and wish to end the marriage?
Divorce – the legal procedure to end a marriage
In accordance with Singapore law, you cannot apply for a divorce if you have been married for less than three years unless you have the Court’s permission to do so. The Court will only give permission if there is exceptional hardship suffered by the party filing for divorce An example could be extreme mental distress and mental health issues suffered by the filing party
Usually, a party to the marriage can usually obtain the Court’s permission successfully if he/she can show that mental illness is caused by the breakdown of the marriage and that he/she will recover faster if he/she obtains a divorce as early as possible.
Annulment – declaring a marriage null and void
However, if there has not been any exceptional hardship mentioned above, it is still possible to end a marriage by annulment.
Annulment is the legal procedure to dissolve a marriage, declaring it null and void. The law will deem that both parties have not entered into a valid marriage – i.e. the marriage did not happen at all.
A void marriage is a non-marriage and the law will deem that both parties have not entered into a valid marriage at all. Some examples of a void marriage include:
- Underage marriage
- Incestuous marriage
- Marriage not between man and woman
On the other hand, a voidable marriage is a marriage that is legally valid until it is annulled by a judgment of nullity. Below are some examples of voidable marriage:
- Non-consummation of marriage due to inability
- Non-consummation of marriage due to refusal
- Lack of fitness for marriage due to mental disorder
- Spouse has a sexually-transmitted disease at time of marriage
- Marriage where, at the time of the marriage, the wife was pregnant by some person other than the husband
Do note that the Court may not grant an annulment unless it is satisfied that proceedings were instituted within 3 years from the date of the marriage.
How long is the process?
To annul a marriage, it will take a period of 6 months from the time of filing for an annulment. For divorce, it will take longer as it is a two- stage process – obtain a Court order to file for an early divorce and then, the divorce proceedings itself. The entire time frame will be about 9 to 10 months.
Conclusion – any other information you need to know
Annulment is only possible if the filing party fulfills the conditions set by the law. It is not easy to obtain an annulment order. The most common reason for annulment is non-consummation of the marriage by virtue of the refusal of the other party.
Also note that each party must engage their own lawyers. One lawyer cannot act for both parties due to conflict of interest.
We have a great article explaining the differences between divorce, separation and annulment that you can read about here.
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This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Interstellar Group Pte. Ltd. accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.