Heart Balm Statute in California Partition Actions


What is the heart balm statute in California?

A heart balm statute is a state law that prevents someone from suing their former romantic partner over a broken promise (or promises) that was to be met on the condition of marriage or during the course of the marriage. These statutes arose due to the common law tradition that allowed a heart balm action to recover damages against a former romantic partner over a broken promise related to becoming married. Most states have these heartbalm statutes to prevent unnecessary litigation surrounding damages from a break up alleging a promise to become married or benefits during the marriage.

Does California have a heart balm statute?

A fraudulent promise to marry or to cohabit after marriage does not give rise to a cause of action for damages.” Civ. Code § 43.4. In fact: “No cause of action arises for: (a) Alienation of affection…. (c) Seduction of a person over the age of legal consent. (d) Breach of promise of marriage.” Civ. Code § 43.5. This anti-heart balm statute was enacted by California as a matter of public policy to prevent costly litigation stemming from a broken heart. “The California anti-heart-balm statutes, which long ago did away with breach of promise actions, establish a public policy against litigation of the affairs of the heart.” Askew v. Askew (1994) 22 Cal.App.4th 942, 947, as modified on denial of reh’g (Mar. 14, 1994). Furthermore, “Section 43.5 is designed to eliminate a class of lawsuits…which promoted fraud and perjury and encouraged marriages motivated by fear of a lawsuit instead of love.” Boyd v. Boyd (1964) 228 Cal. App. 2d 374, 377–78.

“Sometimes referred to as the ‘anti-heart-balm statute,’ section 43.5 ‘was enacted to eliminate a class of lawsuits which were often fruitful sources of fraud and extortion and easy methods to embarrass, harass, and besmirch the reputation of one wholly innocent of wrongdoing. The statute creates a blanket immunization from liability for the conduct it protects unless such conduct ‘breaches a duty of care independent of the causes of action barred therein.’” Richelle L. v. Roman Cath. Archbishop (2003) 106 Cal.App. 4th 257, 266–67, as modified (Mar. 17, 2003).

Partition actions involving the heart balm statute

It’s not uncommon for modern engaged couples to purchase a home together in anticipation of marriage. If the relationship goes south and they decide to break up, how will the home be split? Because the couple is not yet legally married, the family attorneys do not have jurisdiction to file an action in family court over the home as they would in a divorce.

Instead, the property can be equitably divided in civil court through a partition action. The seasoned partition attorneys at Talkov Law have seen ex-partners file meritless cross-complaints when faced with partition actions given that there are few defenses to a partition action. Among these cross-complaints can include attempts to collect damages based on a broken heart alone, but California’s anti-heart balm statute makes it so that heartbroken individual cannot sue their former romantic partner for damages. Simply promising to marry another is insufficient for receiving damages or partition offsets in a partition action or otherwise.

Contact an Experienced Partition Attorney in California

If you want to end your co-ownership relationship, but your co-owner won’t agree, a partition action is your only option. Our experienced partition lawyers have years of experience ending co-ownership disputes and can help you unlock the equity in your property. For a free, 15 minute consultation with an experienced partition attorney at Talkov Law, call (844) 4-TALKOV (825568) or fill out a contact form online.

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