Like many other states in the country, Georgia no longer acknowledges common law marriage. The state does acknowledge that in situations involving an engagement, a legally binding contract is created, which means that one party can be found liable if he or she chooses to leave the relationship and as a result breaches the promise between the two individuals to marry.
The Case of Kelly v. Cooper
During the Georgia case of Kelly v. Cooper, a man and woman resided together and even had a child together. In 2004, the man gave the woman an expensive ring that she viewed as a wedding ring, although the man did not acknowledge that he had proposed to the woman. The woman subsequently quit her job so that she could dedicate more of her time to working as a stay-at-home mother. Later, the woman ended the relationship when she discovered that the man was having an affair. The court later determined that the man was liable to the woman and awarded the woman $50,000. The man later appealed this decision, but the upper court upheld the lower court’s decision on the basis that a promise to marry is an enforceable type of contract in the state of Georgia.
Defenses to Breach of Promise Cases
When a person breaches a promise, there are still some strong defenses that can be raised in response to these claims. Some of the most common defenses that are raised in breach of promise cases include the following:
- Either party did not have the capacity to enter into a valid contract
- The promise was invalid or did not fulfill contractual requirements
- After agreeing to marry, information came to light which would have made the marriage improper or unsafe
What About the Engagement Ring?
In accordance with Georgia law, a valid gift must meet three elements:
- The person giving the gift must have meant to give the item,
- The recipient must have accepted the gift, and
- The gift must be delivered.
Most courts in Georgia view engagement rings as conditional gifts. In many cases, however, engagement rings that are given in consideration of marriage must be returned to the individual who gave the engagement ring if the marriage does not occur. When more unique cases occur in Georgia involving engagement rings, however, courts tend to resolve matters on a case-by-case basis.
Speak with an Experienced Family Law Attorney
In some situations, the state of Georgia acknowledges that liability exists when one person breaches a promise to marry. If you or a loved one recently broke off an engagement, it might be a wise idea to discuss matters with an attorney. Contact Vayman & Teitelbaum P.C. to schedule an initial free consultation. Our attorneys have helped many people navigate family law issues and can help you determine the various options that exist in your case.