Editor's Note: Each week, attorney , whose practice is based on Hampton Road in Southampton Village, answers family law questions on Southampton Patch. Her answers are based on New York State law and family court decisions.
Q. I lived with my boyfriend for two years and paid off some of his existing personal loans and credit card debts. After we broke up, I asked him to repay me. He refused, saying that since we had always shared everything 50-50, he owed me nothing. Can I sue him?
A. In a recent case, an unmarried couple had lived together for four years when they decided to break up. Originally, they had agreed to share their living expenses. The girlfriend took out a personal loan for $9,400 during that period and gave the money to her boyfriend, along with a $2,000 cash advance from her personal credit card. He bought a motorcycle among other personal things and informally agreed to pay back her loan at a rate of $214 a month.
During their relationship, both parties had equal access to automobiles and appliances purchased together. They also kept a joint bank account. After their breakup, the girlfriend sued the ex-boyfriend for breach of contract, asking for $8,000 in damages.
In deciding this case, the court noted that when persons live together, their miscellaneous services are presumed to be free. Although a contract will not be implied from such live-in arrangement, cohabitation without marriage does not prevent parties from entering an express written contract. However, in this case the court found no evidence of any formalized terms of repayment for the loan. Further, even if the ex-boyfriend had orally agreed to repay the girlfriend, the $214 in monthly payments would require more than five years to satisfy, and therefore must be in writing. A written contract did not exist here. Refusing to imply a contract, the court dismissed the ex-girlfriend's lawsuit.