Broken Hearts Cannot be Mended By the Legal System

Ronald was a divorced father of two when he met and fell in love with Bonnette. At the time, he owned numerous real estate properties. He wanted to ensure that those properties could be used to support his two children while they were minors and to provide for their college educations. He also wanted to ensure, if something happened to him, his wishes would still be accomplished. Bonnette swore her love for Ronald, and promised to use his property for his children's welfare if something were to happen to him. Bonnette also swore to Ronald that she was sexually passionate about him, something he had to have before he would marry again. With Bonnette's promises to Ronald, he married her and changed title to his separate properties to joint tenancy.

Thirteen years and two children later, Bonnette admitted to Ronald that she had never been sexually passionate about him, and the marriage ended. In the divorce proceedings, Bonnette claimed her one-half interest in the properties under California's family code laws. To reclaim ownership of the properties, Ronald sued Bonnette in civil court for fraud. He could not sue for alienation of affection or breach of promise suits (known as anti-heart-balm cases), because they had been outlawed by the California legislature in 1939. He claimed she lied about her love and sexual passion for him, and that fraud induced him to marry her. The jury trial agreed with Ronald and awarded him $242,000 from Bonnette. Bonnette appealed.

The appellate court agreed with Bonnette, whatever terminology is used and whatever legal cause of action is used, the case remained an anti-heart-balm case and not actionable in court:

"…Words of love, passion and sexual desire are simply unsuited to the cumbersome strictures of common law fraud and deceit. The idea that a judge, or jury of 12 solid citizens, can arbitrate whether an individual's romantic declarations at a certain time are true or false, or made with intent to deceive, seems almost ridiculously wooden, particularly where the statements were made prior to marriage and the marriage lasted more than 13 years…"

Although promises of everlasting love and affection are broken all the time, the courts will not legislature will not attempt to prevent/control them through laws, nor will the court attempt to litigate them in California. Ronald's desire to protect his separate property and his children's future would have been better served with a prenuptial agreement.

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