Your Boyfriend Called Off Your Engagement: Do You Know What Your Rights are?

by Mary Stearns-Montgomery
in More
Called Off Your Engagement

Georgia courts no longer recognize common law marriages. They do, according to one relatively new case, find that having a long-time significant other and an engagement can be considered a legally binding contract, creating a liability for one party if he or she chooses to leave the relationship, also called a breach of promise to marry.

In the case Kelly v. Cooper, Christopher Kelly and Melissa Cooper had resided together since 2002 and had a child together. In 2004, Mr. Kelly gave Ms. Cooper an expensive ring that she considered an engagement ring, although Mr. Kelly denied that he had proposed to her. According to court documents, Ms. Cooper claimed that, at Mr. Kelly’s request, she quit her job to be a stay-at-home homemaker and mother. When Ms. Cooper discovered that Mr. Kelly was having an affair, she severed the relationship.

Ms. Cooper proceeded to file a suit against Mr. Kelly seeking damages for breach of contract, the contract being his promise to marry her and the breach being his affair. The court found that Mr. Kelly was liable to Ms. Cooper and awarded her $50,000. Mr. Kelly appealed the decision, but the court ultimately upheld the trial court’s ruling, saying that a promise to marry is enforceable in the state of Georgia.

What Defenses are there to Breach of Promise?

Most of the defenses in a breach of promise claim have to do with either party’s capacity to enter into a valid contract. Commonly seen defenses include:

  • Either party lacked the capacity to enter into a valid contract.
  • The promise was invalid or did not fulfill the contract requirements
  • After making the promise, the defendant became aware of the plaintiff’s conditions, such as disease or incapacity, which would have made it unsafe or improper to enter the marriage.

Do I Need an Attorney?

Because Georgia, in specific occasions, recognizes liability in breach of promise to marry cases, if you have recently broken off a relationship, you may wish to speak to an experienced attorney. Your attorney can help you determine if you might be entitled to recover losses from the breach or if you could become a defendant in such a case. The family and divorce attorneys at Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor can help you determine exactly what your rights may be.