1. Difference Between Fact and Law Contracts
2. A Celebrity Divorce Express Contract Example

What is an express contract? Express contracts occur when there is an exchange of promises, made with a mutual intent either verbally or in writing, or both to which the parties agree they are bound to. When the parties believe that a contract exists between them based on behavior's involved, this is an implied contract.

Since the law does not differentiate between contracts created by words and or through conduct, the courts will analyze communications between the parties at the time of the contract creation. They must determine if the express contract is correctly formed and for an implied contract if the parties intentions could be seen from their business relations and dealings with one another.

Difference Between Fact and Law Contracts

For an example of an implied in fact, contract let us consider a local cafe or restaurant. The restaurant employee expects the customer to place an order and then pay for it. Alternatively, the customer that entered the cafe intends to pay for an order they place. The understanding of both parties as to what is going to happen in this exchange creates an implied in fact contract.

For an example of an implied contract by law let's consider the following scenario. A customer in the cafe above begins to choke and a doctor in the cafe at the time performs a lifesaving procedure on the customer. The doctor later bills the customer for the service

The customer can refuse to pay on the grounds that they did not ask for the service but it is still up for question in a court. The court may determine that the restaurant customer received free medical treatment which saved their lives and must pay restitution to the doctor proving that a contract exists between the two parties.

A Celebrity Divorce Express Contract Example

In October of 1964, Michelle Marvin claimed that actor Lee Marvin made an oral agreement with her in regards to their living arrangements. She stated that the couple agreed to pool together all earnings and share any property accumulated while living together.

Michelle further explained that Lee agreed to be referred to as married publicly despite the fact they would not be legally married. As they lived together, Michelle offered her services as homemaker, housekeeper, cook, and companion. In exchange, Lee was to make sure that Michelle's financial needs would be met for the rest of her life.

Michelle claimed that she had met the terms of their agreement while she lived with Lee between October of 1964 through May of 1970 when Lee forced her to leave his home. Lee continued to provide for her until November of 1971 and then refused further support.

Michelle filed a lawsuit, asking the court to determine her rights to the express contract and the rights to her half of the property acquired during her relationship with Lee, a small fortune which included over $1 million in motion picture rights.

Lee filed to dismiss the case on the following arguments:

  • The contract created occurred during an "immoral" and "illicit" relationship (living as an unmarried couple) and would "violate public policy" to enforce it.
  • Lee felt his earnings were the community property with his first wife, despite the fact they lived apart during this time.
  • Lee argued that the contract is not valid under California's Civil Code section 5134, which said that marriage settlements should be made in writing.
  • He argued that the express contract made between nonmarital partners could not be enforced.

The court struck down these arguments and ruled that:

  • Living together and having sexual relations does not invalidate any agreements they made about expenses, earnings or property.
  • In regards to his second claim, the court felt that enforcing the express contract made with Michelle in no way would impact his first wife.
  • The court felt that the contract being disputed here did not fall within the definition for marriage settlements.
  • Furthermore, the court found that the original case should not have been dismissed. The Supreme Court felt that the terms of Michelle and Lee's express contract was sufficient and the trial court could have rendered "declaratory relief."

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