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At Common Law

At common law, an action may be brought to recover damages for the breach of a promise of marriage.  The right to bring an action for breaching a promise of marriage arises when either of the parties fails to perform the terms of the contract.  The cause of action arises if the defendant fails to perform the terms of the contract and that has been considered a breach by the plaintiff.  The action need not be on the contract itself.  If the facts warrant, recovery may be had upon the allegation of injury by reason of the fraud and deceit.  However, mere breach of a term of contract in due time does not give rise to an action for damages.  The opposing party is entitled to consider the contract at an end and to maintain an action for damages where such a failure cannot be reasonably excused.  Apart from any anticipatory breach, a contract to marry at a specific time or on the happening of some contingency or future event is not broken until the time arrives or the event takes place.

An action for a breach of terms of an agreement will not lie in marriage engagements that provide indefinite time for performance and are left to future agreement with no dispute about the engagement, until the complaining party demands performance or herself offers to perform.  However, if the promisor voluntarily refuses to marry the promisee, he/she is not obliged to request him to do so before bringing action.  If the promisor is married to a third person, no specific request is necessary.  Attendance of the parties at a fixed time and place for the performance of the contract to marry shall be taken as sufficient offer to perform the contract.  If the time is fixed, but not the place, the groom has to be present at the house of his prospective bride at the specific time, failure of which would give rise to action for breach of promise.

A renunciation of the marriage contract or some other acts may raise an anticipatory breach of a contract to marry claim.  This may disable one of the parties from completing the contract which would lead to a cause of action regardless of the time agreed upon for the performance of the ceremony.  A promise to marry has to be certain about when it is to be consummated.

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