All you need is love, the Beatles famously proclaimed. But if you're entering into a contract, you need a lot more than that, the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled.
"Love and affection are not consideration for a contract," Ohio's highest court held in the case of an ex-couple's real-estate dispute, The Columbus Dispatch reports.
The decision means Frederick Ormsby, 57, of Medina, Ohio, can keep $324,000 from the sale of a house he once shared with his ex-fiancée Amber Williams. A June 2005 contract, which called for a 50/50 split of the proceeds, is invalid, the court held.
The "love and affection" contract case affirms similar rulings by the Ohio Supreme Court in the 1800s, the Dispatch reports. It also falls in line with general principles of contract formation.
To form a legally binding contract, both parties must agree to offer something of value, called consideration in contract law. There is no set amount of consideration required, but a court may invalidate a contract if a bargained-for exchange "shocks the conscience" of the court, or if there's no consideration at all.
In this case, the couple's June 2005 contract was meant to replace an earlier contract from March 2005, which gave the first $324,000 in home-sale proceeds to Ormsby and the rest to Williams.
In the June contract, Ormsby gave up his guaranteed cut for a 50/50 split, the Ohio court held. Williams, however, offered only the "resumption of a romantic relationship."
Because Williams offered no consideration, the June contract is invalid, and the March contract controls, the court held.
But in a partial dissent, one Ohio justice noted Amber Williams did indeed offer more than just "love and affection." Had the house sold for $1 million, for example, Williams would have made about $700,000 under the March contract -- but just $500,000 under the June contract, Justice Paul Pfeifer explained. That scenario shows the June contract was supported by valid consideration, Pfeiffer said.
- Love, affection not ties that bind contract, state's top court rules (The Columbus Dispatch)
- Williams v. Ormsby - Slip Opinion No. 2012-Ohio-690 (Ohio Supreme Court)
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