Oct 18,2019 | 10 min read

Landmark Case - Balfour vs. Balfour

Author - Associate Zarmeen Jahan


In 1919, Balfour v Balfour gave birth to the purpose to create legal relations theory in contract law. In a dispute between a husband and wife, Lord Justice Atkin said that domestic commitments were not within the jurisdiction of contract law. The main point made was that contracts are promises. But if contracts are a promise, are they legally enforceable?

Brief Facts

 In case of Balfour vs Balfour 1919, Mr Balfour and his wife went to England for a vacation, and his wife became ill and needed medical attention. They made an agreement that Mrs Balfour was to remain behind in England when the husband returned to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and that Mr Balfour would pay her £30 a month until he returned. This understanding was made while their relationship was fine. However, the relationship later soured and the husband stopped making the payments. The wife sought to enforce the agreement. Later the parties separated and were divorced. The wife brought this action for the money her husband had promised to pay to her but had failed to do so.

Procedural History

An additional judge of King’s Bench Division presided by Justice Sargant, held that the husband was under a responsibility to support his wife and there exists a strong contract between the husband and the wife. The consent of the wife to this order of monthly transfer was a valid thought to constitute a required contract between the couple.

Issue involved in Balfour vs Balfour-

Was the contract between Mr and Mrs Balfour valid in nature?

The contention of the appellant

In Balfour vs Balfour the promise made by Mr Balfour of providing monthly expenses to his wife was a domestic agreement and not a legal agreement nor so the husband didn't have any intention of creating a legal agreement.

The contention of the respondent

In Balfour vs Balfour the wife is deemed to get the given amount of money as the husband entered into a domestic contract by contract by offering his wife £30 and the wife agreed and stayed back in England.

What was held in Balfour vs Balfour 1919-

The agreement was purely social and domestic in nature and characteristic and therefore it was presumed that the parties did not intend to be legally bound.

Judgement in Balfour vs Balfour 1919-

Agreements made between a husband and wife to provide capitals are generally not contracts because generally, the parties do not intend that they should be attended by legal ends. Commonly parties to a marriage will make arrangements for personal or household expenses. Even though there may be present what would amount to consider if it had occurred between different parties. The Court of Appeal unanimously held that there was no enforceable agreement.

So the balfour law made it very clear that the legal intention to enter into a contract is very necessary. The balfour law mostly moves around the concept of legal intention as a basic and for most necessity to validate a contract.


At common law, a contract is not enforceable unless the parties intended the contract to create legal relations. Whether or not the parties intended to create legal relations is determined accurately by examining the circumstances existing at the time of execution of the contract. Whether promise made or not, it is between the parties to uphold it to their fullest potential. The parties cannot enforce and the judges who had made the decision concluded that the court cannot come into marital affairs and it is up to their full knowledge for solving their own problems. So the balfour law gave a new perspective to the contract validation.

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Lawyered Team

Lawyered Team