Law School Case Brief
Morone v. Morone - 50 N.Y.2d 481, 429 N.Y.S.2d 592, 413 N.E.2d 1154 (1980)
A contract as to earnings and assets may not be implied in fact from the relationship of an unmarried couple living together since an implied contract is too amorphouse to enforce in equity. And it is unreasonable to infer an agreement to pay for the services rendered when the relationship of the parties makes it natural that the services were rendered gratuitously. An implied contract as to earnings and assets is also inconsistent with the legislative policy enunciated in 1933 when common-law marriages were abolished in New York. However, an express contract of an unmarried couple on the above subjects is enforceable, since New York has long accepted the concept that an express agreement between unmarried persons living together is as enforceable provided only that illicit sexual relations were not part of the consideration of the contract. While cohabitation without marriage does not give rise to the property and financial rights which normally attend the marital relation, neither does cohabitation disable the parties from making an express agreement within the normal rules of contract law.
An unmarried female sought compensation from her unmarried male cohabitant for her services during their cohabitation. She alleged theories of implied contract and that the parties orally agreed to a partnership. The court dismissed the complaint on the ground that it failed to state a cause of action. The female appealed to the Court of Appeals of New York.
Did the couple have an implied contract and partnership?
The court held that a contract relating to the division of earnings or assets may not be implied in fact from the relationship of an unmarried couple that have been living together. The court found that such an implied in fact contract was so amorphous as to practically defy equitable enforcement, and inconsistent with the legislative policy enunciated when common-law marriages were abolished in New York. The court stated that the major difficulty with implying a contract from the rendition of services by persons living together was that it was not reasonable to infer an agreement to pay for the services when the relationship of the parties made it natural that the services were rendered gratuitously. However, the court also held that an express contract concerning the distribution of income and assets between unmarried persons who had lived together was enforceable, and that there was no requirement that such a contract be in writing.
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