How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (Balm)

Prior to 1935, a jilted lover could sue and recover damages for alienation of affection, adultery, and breach of promise to marry. However, in June of 1935, the Heart Balm Act went into effect in New Jersey. Still the law today, the Heart Balm Act abolished any formerly existing right to sue and recover damages under these causes of action.

So what does that mean for you?

You cannot sue someone for “alienation of affection”. This means that in New Jersey, there is no viable legal cause of action against a third party for causing a marriage to fail.

You cannot sue someone for committing adultery with your spouse. If your spouse had sexual relations outside of the marriage, you can plead a cause of action for adultery in your divorce complaint, but the court will not allow you to sue that third party for money damages.

You cannot sue your former significant other for breaking off an engagement.  New Jersey courts will not allow you to get money damages for the broken marriage promise and to add insult to injury, you generally have to give the ring back.

In the end, the New Jersey Legislature abolished these lawsuits because it viewed them as extremely annoying and embarrassing to those involved. Further, the Legislature noted that some who were sued were free of any wrongdoing; many cases were based on fraud, for the financial gain of the plaintiff.

Date Published: April 4, 2017


Written by: Alexandra Rigden