Sometimes love stinks, but don't look to state law for help, court says

The Massachusetts Appeals Court today dismissed a woman's attempt to claim monetary damages from the man who confessed after they married and then had an affair that he had never loved her.

In a case out of Essex County, the woman charged that she never would have signed over half ownership of her house or agreed to merge her bank accounts with his - let alone help pay for his son's tuition - in fact, would never have married the man in the first place if she had known he was such a lying liar, and that he therefore owed him more than now worthless romantic assertions.

But the appeals court said that while the breakup - which led to an annulment - was unfortunate, nothing the man did represented a tort for which he should pay her money, because the woman had provided no evidence of physical harm or any "undue influence" over her actions.

Even the man's affair, which led to his confession of true not-love was not the sort of "extreme and outrageous" conduct, "beyond all possible bounds of decency, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community," to warrant monetary damages, the court ruled.

The plaintiff was not helped by the state "heart balm" law, passed in 1938, that specifically states that "breach of contract to marry shall not constitute an injury or wrong recognized by law, and no action, suit or proceeding shall be maintained therefor" and "alienation of affection and criminal conversation shall not constitute an injury or wrong recognized by law, and no action, suit or proceeding shall be maintained therefor."

And so, the court concluded:

As evidenced here, not all human actions in the context of the dissolution of a marriage have an avenue for legal recourse, no matter how much anger, sorrow, or anxiety they cause.


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PDF icon Complete heart-balm ruling89.37 KB


You put the balm on?

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Who told you to put the balm on? I didn’t tell you to put the balm on. Why’d you put the balm on? You haven’t even been to see the doctor. If your gonna put a balm on, let a doctor put a balm on.

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I need to see that Jackie Charles episode(Seinfeld)!

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What about a non-marriage contract?

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Would it be more meaningful to draw up a legal contract, rather than get married?

"With this signature, I, thee, swear that I love you, and if I'm lying, the penalty clause is severe."

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It's called a pre-nup

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"Before we do this legally binding thing, here are a few ground rules we both agree to..."

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There is more to this story.

I don't usually read these rulings but I was curious. It seems that the man claims that he agreed to the annulment under false pretenses (irony). Right after the annulment, the women served him with a fraud suit that cited his voluntary sworn testimony in the annulment proceeding. Basically, he never would of agreed to the annulment (and made such sworn admissions) if he knew that she was seeking the her half of the house or the tuition payments. It also seems to mention that in their commingled accounts, it was not clear that she paid for as much as she claimed. The ruling points out that she could asked these financial settlements a divorce, but she withdrew her petition.

So I am still confused. It seems pretty reasonable that she should get her house back. I guess she resented the expense of fighting for it, and was looking for a short cut.

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Yes, I didn't get into that part

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Since it wasn't the most interesting thing (at least to me) about the case - I obviously was fascinated by the whole "heart balm" thing.

I am not a lawyer (so anybody who is, tell me I'm wrong), but I think she also erred in the long run by withdrawing her divorce petition and instead going for annulment - and then filing suit. The heart-balm angle comes about because she sued over alleged torts in civil court - which the heart-balm law was designed to address - rather than staying in family court, where judges use different criteria for determining how to divide common assets, such as, oh, houses.

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