Rather than resorting to a divorce, there are alternative modes of separation in the event the marriage goes sour. Knowing all the legal options is extremely vital depending on the situation of your marriage. 

This applies especially if you do not meet the requirements for a divorce. For example, you have been married to your spouse for less than three years. 


Separation is suitable in situations where:

  • You and your spouse may want to live apart from each other but wish to stay legally married; 
  • You and your spouse are contemplating reconciliation;
  • You wish to rely on the grounds of separation to apply for a divorce 

Unlike divorce, there are no prerequisites to commence separation. Moreover, upon separation, you and your spouse will not be free to remarry. 

Types of Separation 

There are also various types of separation, such as:

Informal separation 

The most flexible type of separation is where you and your spouse live apart based on mutually agreed terms. Both parties can live in the same house, but they will lead separate lives (i.e., discontinuation of spousal duties). Usually, both parties are also financially independent of each other. 

Separation with a Deed of Separation 

This document sets out the terms and conditions of the separation and will also cover living and financial arrangements. The Deed of Separation is usually drafted by a lawyer. 

This method is useful if you and your spouse are considering divorce proceedings in the future. The deed will usually cover the ancillary proceedings in a divorce and will therefore prepare both parties for the termination of the marriage. 

Judicial separation

This involves both parties filing for an official judgement of separation in front of the court. For a judicial separation to be processed, you must have been married to your spouse for at least three years, and your marriage must have been irretrievably broken down. If successful, you will receive a judgement of judicial separation from the court.

A judicial separation is appropriate when you believe that your spouse will ignore the deed of separation. Failure to comply with a court order is an offence, such that your spouse may be deterred from breaching the judgement of judicial separation. 

Is divorce still an option in the future? 

Yes, you can still file for a divorce in the future despite having been separated before. There is a minimum requirement of three years of separation before filing for a divorce with your spouse’s consent. Otherwise, four years of separation is needed. 

What is an annulment and how is it different from a divorce?

An annulment of marriage is a court order declaring the marriage between two parties null and void. Both divorce and annulment are similar as they both result in the dissolution of your marriage. However, the main differences are:


  • Even after the divorce, the marriage will still be legally recognised as having existed
  • In a divorce, the matrimonial assets will be split between the parties 
  • In deciding how the assets will be split, the court will consider factors such as the needs of each party after divorce, and the contributions towards the matrimonial assets 


  • The effect of an annulment is that the marriage never existed. It would not be recognised
  • All property and liability will be returned to their original respective owners in an annulment 

What are the requirements for an annulment?

To be eligible for an annulment, your marriage must be either void or voidable. A void marriage is a non-marriage. Examples of this include but are not limited to: 

  • Underage marriages; 
  • Marriage between persons who, at the date of marriage, are already married to another person; 
  • Marriage between people of the same sex 

In contrast, a voidable marriage is one that is legally valid until it is annulled by a judgement of nullity. Examples of this include but are not limited to:

  • Where the marriage has not been consummated due to the incapacity of one party to do so; 
  • Where the marriage has not been consummated because one party has willfully refused to do so;
  • There was no valid consent to the marriage because of duress, mistake, mental disorder or otherwise 

Benefits of annulment compared to divorce

One advantage of annulment is that there is no three year waiting period, unlike with divorce. Moreover, the marital status will be reinstated to “single” once a judgement of nullity is obtained, instead of being considered as “divorced” at the end of the divorce proceedings. An annulment also does not affect the legitimacy of any children born during the marriage. 

Engaging a Lawyer

If you are currently in a situation that requires drafting legal documents like deeds and wills, mediation, or legal advice, it’s best to consult a lawyer who will be able to guide you through your options.

Mr. Amarjit Singh Sidhu of Amarjit Sidhu Law Corporation has represented numerous clients in a wide variety of matters over the years, from traffic offences, and high-profile criminal cases to family and divorce matters. With a vast knowledge of Singapore’s laws and a wealth of experience, Mr. Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation. For more information, feel free to contact us for a consultation.