Balfour vs Balfour Case Summary (1919)

balfour vs balfour case summary

Balfour vs Balfour Case summary (1919) is a snippet to understand the theory of legal relationships easily. Balfour vs Balfour case gave birth to the theory of legal relationship, which is essential to form a contract. The creation of legal relations is important, without which a contract cannot be formed.


  • Mr. Balfour and his wife went to England for vacation. During their vacation, his wife became ill and needed medical attention for the same.
  • An agreement was made between them that Mrs. Balfour would remain in England and that Mr. Balfour would go back to Ceylon and would pay £30 to her every month until he returned.
  • The particular agreement was made when their relationship was fine. Later their relationship got sour and her husband stopped sending her money.
  • Mrs. Balfour sought to enforce this agreement. Later, they both got separated and were divorced.
  • The wife brought an action against Mr. Balfour that he had promised to pay her money but failed to do so.
  • The additional judge of King’s Bench held that Mr. Balfour was under responsibility to support and pay his wife and there exists a firm agreement between the two for which Mr. Balfour appealed.


  1. Was there an intention by Mr. Balfour to be legally bonded?
  2. Is the contract between the wife and husband valid?


Plaintiff’s contention

The appellant argued it was a domestic agreement and not a legal agreement. Mr. Balfour never intended to make a legal relationship and a legal agreement between the two.

Defendant’s contention

The defendant argued that the wife is deemed to get £30 as the husband entered into a domestic contract by offering his wife to pay £30, to which his wife agreed and stayed back in England.


The judges present to hear this case were Justice Atkins, Justice Warrington and Justice Duke. Lord Justice Atkins held that contracts law is not for personal relationships and family. There was no intention to create legal relationship thus there can be no legally binding contract. Atkins added if courts were to allow wives when the contract is broken between the two then courts would be engaged with frivolous cases. The rest two justices agreed to Lord Justice Atkins.


The appeal made by Mr. Balfour succeeded and the court ruled that there was no legal relationship or any legal contract between the wife and husband. If the parties intend to create legal relationship can be decided by examining the circumstances under which the contract was made and executed. Therefore, Mr. Balfour was not legally bound to pay money to Mrs. Balfour.


By studying and understanding the Balfour vs Balfour case cleared that social agreements made between members of the family or other personal relationships will not be enforced in the court of law. It also emphasized the importance of creating legal relationships for a contract to be enforced. The Balfour law gave a new perspective on contract validation.

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Bhoomika CB

Bhoomika CB

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