A breach of promise is a formerly common tort law that makes it possible for an individual to be sued in the event that he or she consented to an engagement of marriage, then later chose to withdraw from the engagement. While once a common legal action in many countries around the world, many regard any laws of this type as obsolete, and a relic from a bygone era. Still, there are jurisdictions that recognize the dissolution of an engagement to be grounds for the pursuit of legal action, if the injured party desires.
Typically, a breach of promise lawsuit will seek some type of compensation from the party who chose to withdraw from the engagement. The underlying concept is that the injured party is entitled to damages, since he or she presumably began to rearrange personal affairs in preparation for the impending marriage. Jurisdictions that do still recognize a breach of promise as a valid reason for legal action usually provide specific guidelines for determining if damages are indeed merited, as well as the amount of damages that the injured party should receive.
While the idea of a breach of promise was once very common, many people today prefer to simply end the connection and move on with their lives. In some parts of the United States, there are statutes that specifically prohibit residents from attempting to bring these types of suits against former romantic partners, even when it is well established that an engagement took place. Other states simply have no provisions that apply to such a case, making it very difficult to bring this type of suit to court.
In other countries around the world, the idea of a breach of promise is still very much a part of the legal options that can take place when a promised marriage does not take place. This is especially true in countries where marriages are arranged as part of the cultural norm. When one or both of the parties in the engagement have significant financial resources, and the marriage was intended to combine those resources as a way of increasing the net worth of both parties, a breach of promise is more likely to be considered a grave offense, both socially and legally. Since the injured party can sometimes demonstrate a loss of wealth or resources as a direct result of the broken engagement, there is at least some possibility that the court of jurisdiction will determine that damages are appropriate, and render some sort of award to the injured party.