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The Termination Of The Engagement

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The Termination Of The Engagement

The Grounds for the Termination of The Engagement


Any of the following events brings about the termination of an engagement:

  1. Marriage by the couple;
  2. Death of either party;
  3. A mutual agreement by the parties to terminate;
  4. When a parent or guardian withdraw their consent when one party is a minor;
  5. A justified, unilateral, decision that is based on a sound reason to terminate by one party;
  6. Breach of promise.

Breach of promise

When a breach of promise takes place and there is no sound reason to terminate the engagement then the ‘innocent’ party may be entitled to recourse for the damages suffered.

This breach of contract may comprise of a claim for damages for patrimonial loss such as expenses incurred for the intended marriage and secondly for a claim that the party’s personality rights are infringed, i.e. injuring a person’s honour or dignity.

When a breach of contract takes place the damages are normally quantified on the basis of positive interests – the injured party is entitled to damages which would place him in a position that he or she would have been in had the contract been fulfilled.

However, with a breach of promise the Courts do not easily apply this principle as very few people know with which marital regime they will get married at the time of the engagement.

The Courts as such do not apply the same principles consistently and any decision by the Court will be made based on the unique circumstance of each case.

Courts are hesitant to award judgement in cases where one party realises that he or she no longer love the other party enough to get married and if the engagement gets cancelled in a decent manner then no reward may be awarded to the ‘injured’ party.

Return of Engagement Gifts

The question often arises whether or not a person must return an engagement gift.  It depends very much on the type of gift and the reason for the termination of the engagement. Usually, if the engagement is cancelled by mutual agreement then all gifts, except for small, insignificant gifts, relating to the engagement gets returned, including the engagement rings.  If the engagement has been wrongfully ended by one of the parties, the innocent party may recover all material gifts.

Martin Vermaak


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