Facts Of The Case
Issues Raised In The Case
- Mr. Balfour and Mrs. Balfour were husband and wife from Ceylon ( Sri
Lanka) and once they went for a vacation to England in the year 1915
- But unfortunately during the course of vacation, Mrs. Balfour fell ill;
she was in urgent need of medical attention.
- Then they decided and made an agreement that Mr. Balfour would return to
Ceylon and his wife, that is Mrs. Balfour shall stay back until she recovers
from her illness.
- They had also decided that during that period of time Mr. Balfour shall
pay Mrs. Balfour 30 pounds as maintenance every month until everything falls
into place, unless she recovers and returns back to Ceylon.
- Now this understanding and interpretation was made when their
relationship was fine and there was not any sort of sourness in between
- But slowly and gradually their relationship deteriorated which resulted
in non- payment of the amount of maintenance by Mr. Balfour to Mrs. Balfour
- But Mrs. Balfour decided to sought to enforce the agreement and moved to
- Mr. Balfour wrote the letter to his wife suggesting to make their
- And at later point of time they separated legally, that means they were
- Mrs. Balfour had brought the action against Mr. Balfour for non-payment
of the amount he was supposed to pay in court of law in the year 1918.
- Did Mr. Balfour ever intended to enter into any sort of agreement with
his wife, Mrs. Balfour?
- Is the agreement between Mr. And Mrs. Balfour valid in nature at all?
- Does the contract between husband and wife enforceable in court of law?
Procedural History Of The Case
Initially when Mrs. Balfour had moved to the court in order to seek her
maintenance, an additional judge of Kingís Bench division presided by Justice
Sargant, held that the husband is indeed liable and is under obligation to
provide maintenance and support to his wife. It had held that there existed a
valid contract between Mr. And Mrs. Balfour. Basically, the lower court ruled in
favour of the plaintiff (Mrs. Balfour) and against the defendant (Mr.
Balfour).The defendantís promise to pay the maintenance was enforceable.
The consideration to the agreement of monthly transfer of the amount of money
was lawful and held binding obligations. So, in the month of July,1919 she
received the decree nisi and subsequently in the month of December, the order
for alimony. The lower court had observed and had held the contract binding but
Mr. Balfour appealed in higher court.
Contention At The Part Of The Appealant (Mr. Balfour)
The Agreement made between Mr. Balfour and Mrs. Balfour was purely domestic in
nature, it does not hold any legal enforcement. Moreover Mr. Balfour never had
any sort of intention to to form an agreement which is legal in nature.
Contention At The Part Of The Respondent (Mrs. Balfour)
The husband must be obliged to pay her the maintenance because, because the
husband got into the domestic agreement by entering into the contract that he
would pay her the amount of 30 pounds as support for which she had agreed to
stay back in England.
What Was Held In Balfour Vs. Balfour (1919)
It was held that the characteristics of the agreement was purely and completely
domestic in nature, Lord Justice Atkin held that when a husband and a wife enter
into an agreement they never intend to create a legal relationship. Both the
parties must have an intention to create a legal relationship while entering
into an agreement, then only it becomes enforceable in court of law.
Moreover, a court will never take into account the domestic agreements between
spouses made in daily course of life.
The agreement was outside the realm of contracts altogether.
As mentioned above, the agreement was not legally binding, the agreements made
in personal family relationships are not counted in law of contract the
agreements made between spouses to provide capitals or monetary benefits does
not hold any legally binding authority. Generally, spouses or parties to
marriage do make arrangements for personal and household expenses, but there is
never a legal instinct in those things.
The court of Appeal had unanimously
ruled that there was no such enforceable agreement between Mr. Balfour and Mrs.
Balfour. Subsequently, Mr Balfour was allowed. Basically, the law revolves
around the concept that there must be an intention on the part of both the
parties to create a legal relationship in order to validate a contract. This was
the ratio decidendi of the case. Whether the parties intended to create a legal
relationship or not is determined by examining the circumstances that existed,
under which the execution of the contract was done.
Short Analysis Of The Case
Initially, at the first instance of the case, Justice Sargant had held that, the
claims made by Mrs. Balfour are valid and Mr. Balfour should be entitled to pay
her the maintenance which he promised to pay. Finally, Mr. Balfour appealed in
the court of appeal. In the court of Appeal, it was held by the bench of judges,
Warrington LJ, Duke LJ, Atkin LJ that the agreement is not enforceable in court
of law. Atkin LJ observed it with regard to owing to its domestic nature.
Whereas Warrington LJ and Duke LJ did so because they doubted that Mrs. Balfour
gave consideration. The doctrine of intention to create a legal relation was
invoked by Atkin LJ basically.
It was said that the doctrine was with regard to public policy and domestic
agreement has got nothing to do with it. The court can not indulge into such
trifle issues relating to personal and family agreements.
Though there may be certain circumstances, where husband and wife may enter into
an agreement which is legally binding in nature, but here in this case there was
no such circumstance. The doctrine attracted attention and gained prominence.
This intention is sometimes also referred as animus contrahendi.
In one of the later case of Jones vs. Padavatton,
Salmon LJ had said that the
this is factual in nature. It does not possess any legal presumption.
Intention to create a legal relationship is one of the essential elements
required to enter into a contract.
By studying and going through the case of Balfour vs. Balfour (1919), we
understand that a mere social agreement made within a family can not be enforced
in court of law, these agreements do not hold any legally binding authority.
Second thing is there must be an intention to create a legal relation at the
part of the parties. Owing to all this, Mr. Balfour could not be sued by Mrs.
Balfour in court of law. This case has often been seen in conjunction
with Merritt vs. Merritt
1970] 2 All ER 760;  1 WLR 121. In this case,
though the couple was married but they already had an estranged relationship,
when the agreement was made, so in this scenario, any sort of agreement between
them was to be considered that of legal in nature.
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Safeeya Sabeer
Authentication No: FB32882191375-10-0221