What are the grounds for annulling a marriage?

A spouse can file for a judgment of nullity in respect of his or her marriage (section 104, Women’s Charter). A marriage may be held void or voidable.

A marriage is void where:

  • Either party is below the age of 18.
  • The parties are within prohibited degrees of relationship as set out in the Women’s Charter, and have not obtained a special statutory marriage licence to wed.
  • Either party has committed bigamy.
  • The parties are not respectively male and female.
  • The marriage is not formally solemnised.

A marriage can be held voidable on the grounds of:

  • Non-consummation owing to the incapacity of either party to consummate it or wilful refusal of the defendant to consummate it.
  • Either party not validly consenting to the marriage, whether as a consequence of duress, mistake, unsoundness of mind or otherwise.
  • Either party, although capable of giving a valid consent, suffering (whether continuously or intermittently) from a mental disorder so as to be unfit for marriage.
  • The defendant suffering from venereal disease in a communicable form.
  • The defendant being pregnant by some person other than the claimant.

A claim that a marriage is voidable can be defeated if it can be shown that the claimant, knowing that it was open to him to have the marriage avoided, so conducted himself to lead the other spouse reasonably to believe that he would not seek to do so. Claims for nullity (on the second to fifth grounds above) must be made within three years from the date of marriage.