ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Friday, March 26, 2010

NY Judge Essentially Holds that Unmarried Partners Cannot Expressly or Implicitly Contract for Marriage Rights

Fabien Baron and his unmarried partner, Malin Ericson, broke up.  After their separation, she essentially sued him for equitable distribution (by way of constructive trust) and child custody and support.   Ericson’s claim was premised on Baron’s  alleged statement that “what’s mine is your’s.”  He also allegedly said that he would “always take care of her,” and  “always be there for her,” and would  “treat their separation as if [they]  ‘had been legally married.’” 

A New York trial court (Supreme Court, New York County [Gesmer, J]) dismissed the claims based on these (and other) statements.  “While not entirely unsympathetic to the circumstances described by Ericson,” the court reasoned that general remarks of this kind, while they may in some circumstances crease a moral obligation, are insufficient to create a binding oral contract.  In short, the court reasoned that Ericson’s “affidavit in opposition to the motion to dismiss does nothing to supplement the missing element of promise in her Complaint.  Indeed, she admits in her affidavit that [Baron] ‘never specifically promised  . . . an ownership interest or a percentage interest in the assets he was acquiring while [they] cohabited.’”

The court further held that, “even if [Baron] had made an explicit promise that, upon separation, she would be entitled to ‘equitable distribution’ of their assets, it would be unenforceable, as it would be contrary to the long-standing law and policy in New York that unmarried partners are not entitled to the same property and financial rights upon termination of the relationship as married people.”

Ericson v. Baron, 350065/09 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. County Mar. 23, 2010)

[Meredith R. Miller]

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