Lee and Michelle lived
together as an unmarried couple for seven years. She even took his name.
They broke up and Lee kicked
her out of his house. Michelle sued Lee for half of his stuff and
alimony, as if it were a divorce.
Michelle argued that Lee
promised he'd take care of her for the rest of her life.
She did give up her career
as a lounge singer to be a homemaker.
Lee argued that there was no
written proof and it would be in contradiction of public policy.
They were not married and
supportive contracts that involved sex are not enforceable.
The Trial Court granted
summary judgment for Lee. Michelle appealed.
Up until this case, it was
considered against public policy to enforce any contract where sex was an
element of the contract because it could be construed as a form of
The California Supreme Court
The California Supreme Court
The Family Law Act (which covered divorces) was inapplicable.
However, the courts should
enforce express contracts between non-married partners, unless that
contract included the exchange of sexual services.
If there is no express
contract, the courts should look to see if there is an enforceable
The Court found that it
should no longer be violative of public policy to enforce an oral
contract between two persons where sex is a factor.
The Court changed their
thinking on this issue because they recognized that times were changing.
Lee argued that Michelle had
just made a gift of her services,
and so there wasn't a contract. But the Court found that she relied on Lee's promise to take care of her because
she gave up her career to be his companion (remember Contract Law?).
Basically, this decision
allowed for equitable redress for
implied contracts involving sexual relations.
The case went back to Family
Court which found that there was an implied contract and ordered Lee to pay
$104k. He appealed.
The $104k was not to be
considered an alimony, or the
division of property (Lee had millions). It was designed to help rehabilitate Michelle so that she could get some new skills
and start a new career.
That's different than
providing support, which
traditionally continues until the spouse dies or gets remarried.
The Appellate Court reversed.
The Appellate Court found
that Michelle suffered no harm due to her relationship with Lee. Lee had
not been unjustly enriched from his relationship with Michelle, and had
never acquired anything of value from Michelle through a wrongful act.
In addition, Michelle could
show no proof that Lee ever made a promise.
You have to show evidence
that the implied contract existed in order for it to be enforceable.
Although Michelle didn't get
any money in the end, this case was important because it established the
idea that the courts might be willing to enforce non-marital contracts
between parties involved in a sexual relationship.
Probably because there were
more and more unmarried couples in the 1970s.