Suing for a broken engagement-The obligation of monitory compensation by one who breaks an engagement


My daughters Chasan broke off the engagement a few days before the wedding. This has caused me and my family immense shame and monetary damage. May I sue him and his family for what they have done?


I am sorry to hear about your predicament, and indeed the other side must own up to the fact that they may be liable for monetary compensation, irrelevant of how necessary or justified they feel their decision was. Indeed, from a Halachic and legal perspective, it is certainly possible to sue for damages when someone breaks off an engagement and causes monetary loss and shame to the other side and many Batei Dinim have settled such claims between the broken sides of an engagement, usually coming to some sort of monetary compromise [pesharah]. In fact, in the Shtar Tanaim typically a hefty Knas/fine would be written for anyone who backs off from the engagement in compensation for the emotional and monetary damage that their decision has caused. However, the address for bringing such a claim is only in front of a Beis Din, and not G-d forbid a secular court. I would suggest that you send your claims to the other side and ask them if they are willing to settle with you on their own for an agreeable sum. If this effort does not bear fruit, then ask them to jointly go with you to a Beis Din of their choosing. The Beis Din will decide the amounts of moneys that you should be compensated, based on a) the reason or cause for breaking off the engagement, b) the amount of money that you already spent, and c) the shame caused to the family. If they ignore your efforts, then make a claim against them in your local Beis Din and they will direct you in the procedures to follow. If the defendants refuse to come to Beis Din, the Beis Din will give you a Heter to take them to a secular court. These cases are usually settled in a small claims court, although I would suggest you hire a lawyer for proper direction, if it comes to that. To note, while you certainly may legally be correct in your claim for compensation it is not always the advised approach, and usually brings along added stress and animosity and prevents you and your family from moving on. Thus, if the other side refuses to cooperate to go to a joint Beis Din, I would recommend you strongly consider whether the efforts of litigation are worth the outcome, or whether you should count your losses and move on. May Hashem bless you and your family with only good news from here on, and may Hashem replenish your monetary loss with double and triple fold, and bring your son to the Chuppah very soon.

Sources: See Michaber and Rama E.H. 50:3; Smeh C.M. 185:24; Radbaz 1:329; 4:234; Tashbeitz 2:166; Maharit 262; Shulchan Haeizer 2:11 in detail; Nitei Gavriel Shidduchin 41:10

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