Mr. and Mrs. Balfour were a married couple and they went for a vacation to England in the year 1915. But unfortunately during the course of vacation, Mrs. Balfour fell ill and Mr. Balfour decided to return back to Ceylon (Sri Lanka). They also decided that during that period of time Mr. Balfour shall pay Mrs. Balfour 30 pounds as maintenance every month until she recovers and returns to Ceylon. This agreement continued for a period until Mr. Balfour stopped paying the maintenance. Mrs. Balfour decided to sought to enforce the agreement and moved to the court.


  1. Did Mr. Balfour ever intended to enter into contract?
  2. Does the contract between husband and wife enforceable in court?
  3. Under what circumstances will a court decline to enforce an agreement made between spouses?


Initially, Justice Sargant had held that the claims made by Mrs. Balfour are valid and Mr. Balfour should pay the maintenance promised to his wife. But the court of appeal unanimously ruled that there was no such agreement between Mr. Balfour and Mrs. Balfour.

The court held that the characteristics of the agreement was purely and completely domestic in nature, and the agreement was made in personal capacity of family relationship and the agreement did not hold any legally binding authority. Lord justice Atkin held that when a husband and a wife enters into agreement, they never intend to create a legal relationship.  Basically, the ratio decidendi of the case was, for an agreement to be enforceable in court of law, both the parties must have an intention to create legal relationship while entering into agreement. The court also observed that whether the parties intended to create a legal relationship or not is determined by examining the circumstances that existed in the case, under which the execution of the contract was done. In addition, the court will not take into account the domestic agreements between spouses made in daily course of life. The agreement was outside the ambit of contract altogether.


Balfour v. Balfour is an important case in law of contract. This is so because the case was first to define the concept of ‘intention to create legal relations’ and its usage. After studying and going through Balfour v. Balfour, I believe that the agreement made between Mr. Balfourand Mrs. Balfour was just a social agreement made within family. That agreement did not hold any legally binding authority and that’s why it couldn’t be enforced in court of law. The agreement also lacked intention, which is an essential element to create a legal relation at the part of the parties. Due to all this, Mrs. Balfour was not able to sue and ask for maintenance from Mr. Balfour.

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