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Interference with an Agreement to Marry

Depending upon the state, interfering with an agreement to marry may be a civil offense or a tort. However, the majority of states do not recognize a claim for interfering with an agreement to marry. Although most states recognize the claim of tortious interference with a business relation or with a general contract, states are more reluctant to permit a claim for liability with respect to a premarital setting.

A party may be dissuaded from marrying another individual by a family member or a third party. Sometimes a family member may offer money or some other token if the marriage does not go through as the parties intended. Additionally, a third party may alienate the affections of a person under an agreement to marry or have sex with that person. In most states, the harmed party of the impending marriage may not be permitted to sue the family member or the third party because neither party is liable.

Current State of the Law in Most States

Most states do not recognize interference with an agreement to marry as a tort. The reason why many states do not recognize this as an offense is because often times the person that interferes with the agreement to marry is a family member. It has been argued that if the law did recognize an action for interference with the agreement to marry, it would have to carve out exceptions for the person whose relationship granted a privilege to act in the perceived best interest of the engaged person. Most states do not even recognize the tort if the interference is the result of ill will.

Public policy often dictates what type of offenses are recognized by states. The failure to extend relief for interference with an agreement to marry may be reflected by reservations about the motivation behind such actions. If states permitted such actions to be filed there may be an increased danger of fraudulent claims and unwarranted litigation. Suits involving interference with an agreement to marry may result in unjustifiable attacks on individuals who were simply looking out for another person’s best interests. Moreover, proving that one interfered with the agreement to marry in a malicious or damaging manner may be very difficult to establish. Many emotions are involved with respect to the subject of marriage, which would make it very difficult to enable an individual to maintain an action for interfering with an agreement to marry.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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