Domestic Agreements: Balfour vs. Balfour, 1919

Domestic Agreements


This landmark case established the foundational theory of intent to create legal relations within the realm of law. It clarified that agreements between spouses typically fall under domestic contracts, which are generally not enforceable by law.

Key Points:

  • The case set a precedent for understanding legal intent.
  • It differentiated between domestic and legally binding contracts.
  • The ruling emphasized the non-enforceable nature of most spousal agreements.



  • Parties Involved: Mr. Balfour and Mrs. Balfour.
  • Circumstances: The couple took a vacation during which Mrs. Balfour fell ill, requiring medical attention.
  • Initial Agreement: They agreed that Mrs. Balfour would remain in England for her health, while Mr. Balfour returned to his work in Ceylon. Mr. Balfour promised to send her $30 regularly for her support.


  • Change in Relationship: Initially, their relationship was harmonious, and the agreement was respected. However, as their relationship deteriorated, Mr. Balfour ceased the payments.

Legal Action:

  • Outcome: The marriage eventually led to separation. Mrs. Balfour sought to legally enforce the agreement, leading to this lawsuit.

Key Issues Examined

Intent of Agreement: Did Mr. Balfour genuinely intend to create a binding agreement with his wife, Mrs. Balfour?

Validity of Agreement: Is the agreement between Mr. and Mrs. Balfour legally valid?

Enforceability: Can a contract between a husband and wife be enforced in a court of law?

Read about Quasi Contracts here.

Observation by the Court

Nature of Contracts: The Court identified the agreements between husband and wife as domestic. Such contracts are typically not enforceable by law.

Legal Intent: In this specific case, it was clear there was no intention to create a legally binding agreement between the husband and wife. Therefore, the husband is not legally obligated to pay.

Impact on the Legal System: The Court expressed concern that if such domestic disputes were to be legally enforceable, it would lead to a surge of trivial cases in the courts.

Social Agreements: It was concluded that this case revolves around social agreements, which are generally not enforceable under legal standards.


The Balfour case marks a crucial point in understanding the boundary between personal agreements and legally enforceable contracts. It highlights the importance of intent in contract law and the judiciary’s cautious approach to domestic disputes. This case serves as a guiding light for judiciary aspirants, emphasizing the need for discernment in legal matters and inspiring a deeper understanding of the law’s interaction with personal and societal dynamics.

Personal Agreements Between Spouses: A Legal Perspective

Nature of Personal Agreements: In the realm of family relationships, agreements made on a personal level are typically not recognized under contract law.

Legal Status: Arrangements between spouses concerning financial support or capital contributions do not carry legally binding authority.

Common Practices: While spouses often make plans for managing personal and household expenses, these arrangements lack legal enforceability.

Legal Implications: It is essential to understand that such personal agreements do not entail legal obligations, aligning with family law principles.