Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Carnes v. Sheldon case brief

Carnes v. Sheldon case brief summary
311 N.W.2d 747 (1981)

Plaintiff girlfriend sued defendant boyfriend requesting an equitable division of property held by the boyfriend and custody of the boyfriend's minor child. The Wayne County Circuit Court (Michigan) denied the girlfriend's request, and she appealed.

The boyfriend was married and, after a divorce, was awarded custody of the couple's four children. The girlfriend moved in with the boyfriend, and his refusal to marry her resulted in the eventual demise of their relationship. The boyfriend contended that there was no agreement to share his property with the girlfriend. The girlfriend argued that the evidence supported recovery on the basis of either a contract implied in law or implied in fact.


  • The court held that the girlfriend was not entitled to an equitable division of property because: 
  • (1) the trial court's finding that the boyfriend did not promise to marry her was supported by the evidence; 
  • (2) the girlfriend's unilateral expectation of marriage could not be attributed to the boyfriend as a fraudulent act on his part; 
  • (3) the parties were not putative spouses; and 
  • (4) the girlfriend was essentially asking for relief based on a breach of promise to marry, an action which had been specifically abolished by legislative fiat. In addition, the court held that while the trial court recognized the statutory requirement that it make findings of fact under the "best interest" factor, it failed to do so.

The court remanded the case for a new child custody hearing and retained jurisdiction.

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