Balfour vs. Balfour (1919)

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HomeBrud.gifContract LawBrud.gifBalfour vs. Balfour (1919)

Balfour v Balfour [1919] 2 KB 571 is a popular English Contract law case related to social agreement which is not a contract. It held that there is a rebuttable presumption against an intention to create a legally enforceable agreement when the agreement is domestic in nature.

Intention to create legal relation is an essential element of a contract and in this case, there is no intention to create a legal relation.

It may also be noted that since the offer made in this case is a social agreement, it is not a valid offer.

Contents

Facts of the Case

Mr. Balfour is the Defendant and Mrs. Balfour is the Plaintiff in the given case. The two lived in Ceylon and visited England on a vacation. The plaintiff remained in England for medical treatment. The defendant has agreed to send her a specific amount of money each month until she could return. The defendant later asked to remain separated. Mrs. Balfour sued for restitution of her conjugal rights and for alimony equal to the amount her husband had agreed to send.

Mrs. Balfour obtained a decree nisi and five months later was granted an order for alimony. The lower court entered judgment in favor of the plaintiff and held that the defendant’s promise to send money was enforceable. The court held that Mrs. Balfour’s consent was sufficient consideration to render the contract enforceable and the defendant appealed.

Questions to be answered

The case has raised two important questions.

1. Is it necessary that both the parties intend that an agreement be legally binding so as to be an enforceable contract?

2. What are the circumstances in which a court can decline to enforce an agreement between spouses?

Court decision

The court said that:

1. It is essential that both the parties should intend that an agreement be legally binding so at to become enforceable.

2. The courts will not interfere between the spouses in their day to day affairs.

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