Cohen v Cohen (1929) 42 CLR 91

Arrangement to pay clothing allowance; whether intention to create legal relations


Mr and Mrs Cohen married in 1918 and separated in 1923. Before they were married, an arrangement was made whereby Mr Cohen would pay £100 per annum to his wife in quarterly instalments to buy clothing. The payments were made until 1920. Mrs Cohen sought recovery of the £278 she claimed was outstanding for the period between 1920 and 1923 when the couple separated.


Mr Cohen asserted there had been no consideration from Mrs Cohen in return for his promise to pay her the £100 per annum and, therefore, there could be no enforceable contract between the parties. Further, he claimed the arrangement was merely an informal domestic arrangement between husband and wife. There had been no intention to create legal relations and there could be no legally enforceable obligation on him to make the payments. Mrs Cohen claimed Mr Cohen had promised her to pay the sums to her and although she made no averments in her statement of claim as to what the consideration was for this purported contract, the court considered whether the marriage itself could amount to the requisite consideration.


Mrs Cohen was unsuccessful in her claim. There was no consideration given for the promise of Mr Cohen because the contract for marriage had been made before the promise to pay the clothing allowance. In any event, the arrangement amounted to a domestic arrangement between husband and wife. There could not be said to have been any intention to create legal relations and there was, therefore, no legally enforceable contract.