Morone v. Morone
Court of Appeals of
50 N.Y.2d 481, 429 N.Y.S.2d 592, 413 N.E.2d 1154.
Facts: The Morones were never officially married but lived
together for many years. The “wife” sued
for the value of the household services she provided her “husband” on two
theories: (1) as a contract implied-in-fact between the cohabitating couple and
(2) as an express contract formed between the two. The trial court dismissed the complaint in
full, and the intermediate appellate court affirmed on a slightly different
basis. The “wife” appealed to the Court
of Appeals of
Issue: Can a contract in regard to sharing earnings and assets be implied from the relationship of a cohabitating, unmarried couple?
Rule: Personal services rendered between the couple will not constitute a contract implied-in-fact because such services are ordinarily understood to be gratuitous.
Analysis: The court says that social change in the status of
marriage and cohabitation has also led to changes and uncertainty in the law. The court first finds that unmarried people
living together can make contracts just like anyone else, but domestic services
between the two will not be presumed to form any contractual bond. It’s not the role of the court to get
involved in the post-mortem of an intimate relationship, not legally recognized
as marriage, and try to infer after the fact a contract that was never formed
expressly. The court notes that the
Conclusion: The “implied-in-fact” part of the complaint is dismissed.