Balfour v Balfour: CA 1919

Mr Balfour had set out in an apparently formal legal way, an agreement to give his wife pounds 30 a month by way of maintenance while he was away in Ceylon. Mrs Balfour sought to enforce the agreement.
Held: Within a family there is a rebuttable presumption against an intention to form legal relations. No sufficient evidence had been shown by Mrs Balfour to counter that presumption. Lord Atkin described, as a presumption of fact that family arrangements do not give rise normally to binding contracts: ‘To my mind those agreements, or many of them, do not result in contracts at all, and they do not result in contracts even though there may be what as between other parties would constitute consideration for the agreement. The consideration, as we know, may consist either in some right, interest, profit or benefit accruing to one party, or some forbearance, detriment, loss or responsibility given, suffered or undertaken by the other. That is a wall-known definition, and it constantly happens. I think, that such arrangements made between husband and wife are arrangements in which there are mutual promises, or in which there is consideration in the form within the definition that I have mentioned. Nevertheless, they are not contracts, and they are not contracts because the parties did not intend that they should be attended by legal consequences’.

Lord Atkin
[1919] 2 KB 571, [1918-19] All ER Rep 860, (1919) 88 LJKB 1054, (1919) 121 LT 346, (1919) 35 TLR 609
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedEsso Petroleum Limited v Commissioners of Customs and Excise HL 10-Dec-1975
The company set up a scheme to promote their petrol sales. They distributed coins showing the heads of members of the English football team for the 1970 World Cup. One coin was given with each for gallons of petrol. The Commissioners said that the . .
DistinguishedMerritt v Merritt CA 1970
H and W owned their house jointly. When H left for another woman, he signed an agreement to pay Mrs Merritt a monthly sum, and eventually to transfer the house to her if Mrs M kept up the monthly mortgage payments. When the mortgage was paid off Mr . .
CitedJones v Padavatton CA 29-Nov-1968
A mother had persuaded her daughter to come to England to study for the Bar, promising to allow her to stay in her house Several years later, the daughter had still not passed any Bar examinations. They fell out, and the mother sought possession of . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Contract, Family

Leading Case

Updated: 31 October 2021; Ref: scu.242895