What is the Difference Between Void and Voidable Marriages?

Your marriage is not working out and you may be considering a divorce. However, there are several requirements to be satisfied before being able to file for divorce, and you might have been unable to meet these criteria.

For example, your marriage has not lasted for more than 3 years and you are unable to prove exceptional depravity or hardship in your marriage. Is there no way out for you?

If you face such a situation, you may want to consider an annulment of marriage. An annulment is a legal procedure to dissolve a marriage and declare it null. The difference between an annulment and divorce is that annulment operates on the basis that the marriage did not even exist to begin with.

A marriage can be annulled only if it is void or voidable in law. Here’s the differences between void and voidable marriages, and when they can occur.

Differences Between Void and Voidable Marriages

A void marriage is one that is invalid from the very beginning. As void marriages are considered unlawful in themselves, they do not need any formalities to be terminated.

Children of void marriages are deemed to be the legitimate children of their parents if, at the date of marriage, both or either party reasonably believed that the marriage was valid.

On the other hand, a voidable marriage is one that is flawed in its validity but continues to exist. Voidable marriages will be invalid only after one party applies to court to have the marriage declared void.

Children of voidable marriages that are annulled at their parents’ option are usually still considered legitimate children of that marriage.

When Will a Marriage Be Void?

Under section 105 of the Women’s Charter, the following are grounds for a marriage to be void:

  1. Marriages which are not properly solemnised: Marriages have to be solemnised by the Registrar (or a person licensed to solemnise marriages), on the authority of a valid marriage licence issued by the Registrar (or a valid special marriage licence granted by theMinister for Social and Family Development), in the presence of at least 2 witnesses.
  2. Marriages between close relatives: For example, marriages between parents and children, and between uncles and nieces. See the First Schedule of the Women’s Charter for the full list;
  3. Underage marriages: One or both parties to the marriage are below 18 years old, unless the Minister for Social and Family Development has granted them a special marriage licence;
  4. Polygamous marriages: Marriages to people already married to another spouse under any law, religion, custom or usage;
  5. Homosexual marriages: Marriages between people of the same gender (unless one of the parties has undergone a sex reassignment procedure); and
  6. Marriages between two Muslims solemnised/registered under the Women’s Charter: These marriages have to be solemnised under the Administration of Muslim Law Act instead.

When Will a Marriage Be Voidable?

A voidable marriage is a marriage that is legally valid until annulled by a Judgment of Nullity. It will then be considered annulled from the time the judgment is passed.

Under section 106 of the Women’s Charter, the following are grounds for a marriage to be voidable:

  1. The marriage has not been unconsummated as either party is incapable of doing so;
  2. The marriage has not been unconsummated as either party refuses to do so;
  3. Either party did not validly consent to the marriage due to duress, mistake, mental disorder or otherwise;
  4. At the time of the marriage, either party was capable of giving valid consent but suffered from a mental disorder within the meaning of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) Act 2008 so as to be unfit for marriage;
  5. At the time of the marriage, one party was suffering from a transmissible form of sexually-transmitted disease;
  6. At the time of the marriage, the fiancée was pregnant by someone other than her fiancé.

If your marriage is either void or voidable, you may consider having it annulled. Find out about annulment of marriage here.

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