I Wanted Kids. I Had No Idea That My Partner Couldn’t Have Any. Do I Have Any Recourse?

Suppose that a partner in a (committed but unmarried) relationship wants to have children. Suppose that the other partner has undergone a surgical procedure  which renders him or her unable to have children in the future. Suppose, however, that the party neglects to inform his or her partner that he or she is unable to have children, leaving the partner with the impression that a pregnancy is possible—perhaps even waiting hopelessly for the pregnancy to occur.

When the partner discovers the truth, what legal recourse does he or she have? If the partner legitimately would not have entered the relationship knowing of the impossibility of pregnancy, is there a case for fraud or misrepresentation, infliction of emotional distress, or even battery?

According to a Massachusetts appellate case, no such claims exist.

In Conley v. Romeri, a former girlfriend brought suit against her ex-boyfriend, alleging that she was misled into having an intimate relationship with him. [1]The boyfriend had undergone a vasectomy previously, but did not inform the plaintiff. In fact, the boyfriend made comments to the plaintiff that suggested otherwise: he remarked about “getting her into trouble;” noted that he had been “tricked” by his ex-wife into getting pregnant and told the plaintiff not to betray him in that way; and even told the plaintiff that a fortune teller once told the defendant he would have two additional children.

After finding out about the defendant’s vasectomy, the plaintiff sued for fraud, infliction of emotional distress, and assault and battery. She claimed that she would not have entered an intimate relationship had she known about the vasectomy, and that the defendant knew not only of her desire to have children but also of the little time she had in which she could become a biological mother.

The Appeals Court noted: “[T]here is no recognized standard of conduct by which we reasonably can assess the materiality of the alleged misrepresentation in a context such as the present case.” [2] Furthermore, the Court found that the defendant’s conduct did not rise to the level of “extreme and outrageous conduct” usually required in emotional distress cases, and that there was no battery, as the plaintiff consented to the sexual activity.

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[1] Conley v. Romeri, 60 Mass. App. Ct. 799 (2004).

[2] Id., at 803.