Many people in Cherokee County heard the news story last month about a woman who sued her fiancé for breaking their engagement to marry. The Georgia man has now been ordered by a state appeals court to pay his ex-fiancée $50,000. So, does this mean that any Georgia resident can sue an ex for calling off a wedding? Not exactly.
This case involved a couple that had been involved in a relationship for about 10 years, and they had a child together. In 2004, the man proposed and the woman accepted. She moved into a home that he purchased, and she quit her job to stay home and raise their child and a child from an earlier relationship.
Soon thereafter, the woman learned that her fiancé was cheating on her. She stayed with him, however, because he said he would end the affair. Years later, the woman learned of another affair, and this time the man kicked his fiancée and the children out of his house because he wanted to be with the other woman.
Had the couple been married at the time of the breakup, the woman would have had a right to certain property and assets acquired during the relationship, even though the home they lived in was in the man’s name. She may also have been able to obtain alimony. Because the couple was unmarried, and Georgia does not recognize common law marriage, she had limited rights when the relationship ended.
So, she sued her ex-fiancé for fraud and breach of contract to marry. Although the court’s decision was split, they ultimately ruled in the woman’s favor and awarded her about half of the value of the home the couple lived in during the engagement.
Few states still allow breach of contract to marry lawsuits. These actions date back to the 19th century, when women depended on marriage for social and financial viability. A broken engagement could be very damaging to a woman, who might then have trouble marrying someone else due to a damaged reputation.
Today, a broken engagement can still cause a person significant economic losses – particularly when an engagement is lengthy and finances are commingled.
In some cases, these lawsuits are possible in Georgia and they allow unmarried individuals to try to exit relationships with their fair share. However, such lawsuits are not appropriate for the average young couple who have separate assets and no children when they call off a brief engagement.
Source: Good Morning America, “Ga. Man Must Pay $50,000 After Breaking Engagement to Fiancee, Appeals Court Says,” Susanna Kim, Dec. 6, 2013