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Indecent Proposal - Breach of Promise to Marry
"Have an abortion and I’ll pay you $75,000 divorce my wife and Marry You!!"
How is that for an indecent proposal! Imagine how much more indecent the proposal becomes if after the abortion, the promising party fails to follow through on the other promises. This issue has been addressed recently by Minnesota’s Appellate Court.
Mike is married when he meets Rebecca. Despite his marriage, Mike and Rebecca become fast friends. That friendship quickly blossoms into a covert romantic relationship. All seems to be going well when Mike is contacted by an attorney representing Rebecca. The attorney informs Mike that Rebecca is pregnant with his child. Concerned about the pregnancy, Mike also hires an attorney in the hopes of negotiating a settlement.
To settle the matter, Mike makes two offers: (1) to pay child support for the minor child after it is born and paternity is established; or (2) to negotiate a settlement with Rebecca that does not involve a child or support. As the negotiations proceed, Mike offers Rebecca $75,000 plus medical and legal expenses to terminate the pregnancy. He also promises that as soon as the pregnancy has been terminated he will divorce his wife and marry her, reassuring Rebecca that they can have many children in the future.
Rebecca agrees and the parties sign a formalized agreement that states each has entered into the agreement free of coercion or duress and that after the payment of medical expenses, attorney fees and $75,000 Rebecca will release Mike from any further obligations.
Rebecca has the abortion performed in Wisconsin after a 24 hour statutory waiting period.
After the abortion, Mike refuses to marry Rebecca and Rebecca files a lawsuit seeking monetary compensation for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, battery, fraud and misrepresentation. In the complaint filed with the Court Rebecca alleges that Mike breached his promise to marry her and stated that she suffered psychological damages by being coerced into an unwanted abortion.
Although the names have been changed and the facts are slightly altered, a case such as this was recently addressed by Minnesota’s Court of Appeals raising the questions:
The Court of Appeals answered - "NO" to both questions.
In its opinion, the Court stated that in 1978 the Minnesota state legislature abolished civil actions for:
That law is now codified in Minnesota Statutes S. 553.01-03. The reason for abolishing these claims is set out specifically in the statute itself which states:
Despite the fact that the Petitioner did not raise the claim of a "Breach of Promise to Marry" by that title, the appellate court found that the causes of action filed by the plaintiff for fraud, emotional distress and battery were amounted to the same thing. The essence of each of plaintiff’s claims was that the Defendant promised to leave his wife, marry the plaintiff and to have a baby with her in the near future. As a result the damages or injuries alleged by the plaintiff arise out of the breach of the promise to marry. The Court went on to state that it did not matter whether the defendant intended to coerce the Plaintiff by intentionally lying about his intention to divorce his wife and marry plaintiff. Even if that was the case, the statute, as written clearly abolishes promise to marry actions.
Minnesota courts look at many factors in deciding spousal support amounts. A spouse may be entitled to maintenance if he or she cannot support himself or herself despite any marital property received after distribution. Financial resources, employment, education and the personal circumstances of each spouse are considered. A court examines several factors to determine if maintenance is appropriate, and if so, how much and for how long. They include (1) the duration of the marriage, (2) the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, (3) each spouse's age and health, (4) each spouse's assets, income or ability to earn income, (5) the time needed for the requesting spouse to receive training or education and obtain sufficient employment in order to support himself or herself and (6) the owing spouse's ability to pay. A court can order temporary support while the divorce is pending. Most maintenance is ordered for a specific length of time. Once maintenance is ordered, it can be modified upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances.
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