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  • John C. Whitbeck, Jr.


    John C. Whitbeck, Jr. practices in the following areas of law: Family Law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Mediation, Arbitration, Relocation Cases, Domestic Violence, Criminal Law, DUI/DWI, Reckless Driving, All Felonies, All Misdemeanors, Juvenile Crimes, Mental Health Law, Civil and Business Litigation, Construction Litigation, Education Law, Election Law, Debt Collection, Consumer and Lemon Law.

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  • Ruth M. McElroy


    Ruth M. McElroy practices in the following areas of law: Family law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Relocation Cases, Pre and Post Marital Agreements, Domestic Violence, Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, Juvenile Crimes, Felony and Misdemeanor Crimes, Traffic Offenses, Debt Collection, Civil and Business Litigation. She serves the Virginia Court system as a Guardian ad litem.

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  • Jennifer D. Cisneros


    Jennifer D. Cisneros practices in the following areas of law: Family law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Relocation Cases, Domestic Violence, Juvenile Crimes, Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, Estate Planning, Wills and Probate, Trusts, Civil and Business Litigation and Debt Collection.

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What Are the Legal Consequences for Ending an Engagement in Virginia?


If you are reading this, chances are you are either considering canceling your impending engagement or your partner ended your wedding, and you would like to file a lawsuit to get compensated for the emotional or even monetary damages.

Or the third option is that you are someone who wants to weigh the pros and cons of proposing to someone in Virginia. Either way, you want to know what the legal consequences for ending an engagement in Virginia are.

After all, each state, including Virginia, has a plethora of laws that govern the formation and dissolution of a marriage. If marriage is a legally recognized relationship between individuals, what about engagement? If there are laws regulating divorces, are there any laws governing engagements?

In other words, what are the legal consequences, if any, for ending an engagement in Leesburg or other parts of Virginia? Consult with a Leesburg divorce lawyer to discuss the legal issues surrounding the cancellation of wedding engagements.

How Does Virginia Law Recognize Engagements?

There are no legal requirements for getting engaged before the wedding in Virginia. Unlike marriages, engagements are not recognized as legally binding relationships. Rather, Virginia family law treats engagements as the soon-to-be spouses’ promise to marry.

A few decades ago, there was a law in Virginia that allowed engaged individuals to sue their fiancé or fiancée for breaching their promise to marry. But the law was repealed in 1977.

However, Virginia law does recognize engagements to a certain extent. For example, the state law recognizes a person’s right to return an engagement ring upon the cancellation of the engagement. In 2016, the Virginia Supreme Court held that engagement rings are considered “conditional gifts.”

In other words, while the law does not recognize an engaged person’s right to sue their fiancé or fiancée for breaching their promise to marry, lawsuits to return an engagement ring or recover its monetary value are still valid.

Interestingly, the law does not treat engagements rings “marital property” automatically therefore subject to property division in a divorce. Instead, an engagement ring is the separate property of the person who purchased it.

Can You Recover Damages for Emotional Distress Caused by Cancelling Engagement?

You may still be eligible to recover damages for the emotional distress and financial losses associated with ending your engagement. However, there is a better chance of winning the lawsuit against your ex-fiancé if your wedding was canceled closer to the wedding date.

The damages and losses can be recovered under the doctrine of promissory estoppel, which is an action in equity that allows you to recover equitable compensation for relying on the reasonable promise of another person.

However, to file such a lawsuit, you need a Leesburg divorce lawyer to prove that the promise was considered “reasonable” to another prudent promisee under similar circumstances. You may want to discuss the cancellation of your wedding with our attorneys at our firm, Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy, PC. Call at 703-997-4982 to discuss legal consequences in your particular situation.


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