What do you do if you find out that your spouse lied to induce you to marry? What do you do if your spouse married you just to get your money? What do you do if your spouse lied to get you to marry for immigration status? What if you find out your marriage was based on fraud and deceit? One woman, after she discovered that her husband lied about loving her got an annulment and then sued him for damages for the fraud and deceit under a cause of action called “Fraudulent Inducement.”
Fraudulent inducement is a cause of action that occurred in an era when divorce was uncommon and only granted on particular fault grounds. Since Massachusetts created no fault divorce the number of annulments in the state has dropped and it is extremely rare to find a person suing for fraudulent inducement. However, in the recent case of Shea v. Cameron the wife sued her former husband for fraudulent inducement after an annulment. She found out that Fraudulent Inducement is no longer recognized in Massachusetts.
In 1938 Massachusetts enacted laws that abolished three old causes of action relating to marriage: Breach of contract to marry (G.L.c. 207, § 47A), Alienation of affection, and criminal conversation (G.L. C 207,§ 47B). The act which abolished these causes of action was called the “Heart Balm Act.” Heart Balm is a legal phrase that means compensation for emotion injuries to the heart. In other words, money can soothe a broken heart. The legislature did not specifically abolish fraudulent inducement. As a result, Ms. Shea tried to sue using this old cause of action to get money from her former husband. She was undoubtedly surprised when the Court dismissed her action without awarding her any money.
The court held that abolishment of the tort of breach of promise to marry included other related torts such as fraudulent inducement. The Court didn’t state that there was no remedy for a scoundrel who lied to induce marriage. The Court held that a judge in a divorce action has discretion to consider fraudulent inducement when rendering a divorce judgment. In this case, Ms. Shea chose annulment over divorce and, in doing so, waived any rights she had for fraudulent inducement to marry.
If you believe that you were inuced to marry by fraud then you should consult a divorce lawyer who can discuss the choice between divorce and annulment.