When love goes awry, revenge is often the first order of business. After a slurry of lawsuits from jilted partners, California and other states enacted so-called “heart balm” statutes. These statutes explicitly outlaw “heart balm” causes of action wherein one party seeks damages as a result of wrongful inducement to marry or other incidences of marriage gone wrong.
The scope of these statutes is quite broad. Their purpose is to relieve the courts from wasting judicial resources solving lovers’ spats, even where those spats result in damages. That the parties did or did not actually marry does not remove a cause of action from the heart balm statutes. Nor is it relevant that the claim is phrased as one for tort (such as fraud) as opposed to contract. Any type of damage or defense claimed as a result of a fraudulent statement inducing a marriage is a heart balm cause of action and cannot be brought before the court. “She said yes, but then changed her mind” or “we had an arrangement to marry but then he ran off with someone else” are common heart balm actions that courts simply will not decide.
Heart balm causes of action are distinct from claims that will be heard in family court. Judges can and will sort out such issues as divorce, child support, and child custody. Similarly, claims of physical abuse and damage to property will often be heard, even where those incidents occur while parties are breaking off a marriage agreement.
If you are considering filing a lawsuit related to a broken promise of marriage, first contact an attorney, who can counsel you as to the types of claims that can be heard by the court and the types of claims that will be barred under the heart balm statutes.