NEWNAN, GA -- More than an act of love and commitment, it's no secret that getting married is also a legal contract. But the proposal of marriage also carries legal weight.
"A breach of promise to marry has been a recognized cause of action in the law in Georgia for many years," said attorney Mark Mitchell of Newnan.
Three years ago in Coweta county, a woman named Melissa Dawn Cooper sued her former boyfriend, Christopher Ned Kelley. The suit claims that the two had "entered into a contract to marry," but that the boyfriend "breached that contract by separating from (Cooper) and carrying on sexual relations with numerous other individuals." The suit against Kelley claimed "breach of contract in failing to marry" Cooper.
"It's not routinely litigated, I'll certainly admit that," said Mitchell, who represents the man who allegedly jilted his fiancée. "My client's position was that there had been no promise to marry." He says the couple lived together more than eight years and had a child together.
Nonetheless, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the woman who claimed to be the jilted bride.
Based on her claim that the alleged fiancé had defrauded her by bailing out of the promise of marriage, she was awarded more than $43,000. She also got to keep a ten thousand dollar ring she thought was an engagement ring.
But Mitchell says the ruling should not scare off prospective grooms, nor cause couples to stay in bad relationships.
"I certainly think that if a couple decides before getting married that it's not working out and that they want to walk away from it-- that's the time to do it," Mitchell said.
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