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Promise of Love and Affection Isn’t Sufficient Consideration for Contract, Ohio Supreme Court Says

Posted Feb 24, 2012 9:42 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A couple in an off-again, on-again romantic relationship never had a valid contract to split property proceeds because the consideration was love and affection, the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled.

Amber Williams and Frederick Ormsby had two written contracts regarding a home first owned by Williams, according to the opinion (PDF). Williams had given Ormsby title to the property while they were living together—after he made mortgage payments and then paid off the mortgage balance of about $310,000.

A March 2005 agreement, made after Williams moved out, provided that the home would be sold, Ormsby would get the first $324,000, and the rest would go to Williams. A June 2005 contract, signed before Williams returned, provided that she would get a half interest in the property. Williams had refused to resume the relationship unless Ormsby agreed to the terms of the new contract.

Essentially, the second agreement gives Williams a property interest “solely on the consideration of her love and affection,” the Ohio Supreme court said. “Therefore, the June 2005 document is not an enforceable contract because it fails for want of consideration.”

A contrary holding “would open the door to palimony claims and invite a number of evidentiary problems,” the court majority said.

A dissenter concluded there was neither love nor affection in the relationship, but said the second contract was supported by consideration that included the voiding of the first agreement. Because the case was "riven with bizarre, if irrelevant, details," the dissent said, it provides no guidance and should have been dismissed as improvidently granted.

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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