Carnes v. Sheldon

109 Mich. App. 204, 311 N.W.2d 747 (1981)



By statutory enactment in Michigan, common-law marriages are valid only if contracted before January 1, 1957. Mich. Comp. Laws § 551.2; Mich. Stat. Ann. § 25.2. Since that time, Michigan has refused to recognize such marriages with the result that the property rights afforded a legally married couple have not been extended to those engaged in meretricious relationships. Michigan has also abolished the civil cause of action for breach of contract to marry.


Defendant boyfriend was married and, after a divorce, was awarded custody of the couple's four children. The plaintiff girlfriend moved in with the defendant boyfriend, and his refusal to marry her resulted in the eventual demise of their relationship. The defendant contended that there was no agreement to share his property with the plaintiff. Plaintiff argued that the evidence supported recovery on the basis of either a contract implied in law or implied in fact. Plaintiff sued defendant requesting an equitable division of property held by the boyfriend and custody of the boyfriend's minor child. The court denied her request. On appeal, the court remanded the case for a new child custody hearing and retained jurisdiction.


Was there sufficient evidence to support plaintiff's recovery on the basis of defendant's express agreement to marry her?




The court held that the girlfriend was not entitled to an equitable division of property because (1) the trial court's finding that the boyfriend did not promise to marry her was supported by the evidence; (2) the girlfriend's unilateral expectation of marriage could not be attributed to the boyfriend as a fraudulent act on his part; (3) the parties were not putative spouses; and (4) the girlfriend was essentially asking for relief based on a breach of promise to marry, an action which had been specifically abolished by legislative fiat. In addition, the court held that while the trial court recognized the statutory requirement that it make findings of fact under the "best interest" factor, it failed to do so.

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