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Key information

Court of Appeal, England

Intention to create legal relations
Domestic arrangement

AustraliaJones v Padavatton

[1969] 2 All ER 616


In 1962 the Padavatton was 34 years old and living in Washington, USA, with her son.  She had a good job, salary and pension rights.  Jones, her mother, wanted her daughter to leave Washington, become a barrister in England and then return to Trinidad, and promised to pay her $200 per month if she did this.  Padavatton did this; Jones paid her bar tuition fees and £42 per month.  No agreement was reached about how long this arrangement would continue.  In 1964 Jones proposed that she would purchase a house in which Padavatton could live with her son and derive income by letting out other rooms to tenants.  Jones subsequently sought possession of the house. 

Was there a contract allowing Padavatton to continue in possession?  At first instance it was held there was.


(Danckwerts LJ)

There was no intention here; this was ‘one of those family arrangements which depend on the good faith of the promises which are made and are not intended to be rigid, binding agreements.’  The same principles as applied in Balfour apply here – the arrangement regarding the house was an adaptation of the arrangement for the mother to financially assist her daughter and was not a binding contract.  Danckwerts noted that the parties were on good terms until 1967.

Salmon LJ

An objective test is applied to determine if contractual intent is present.  As a general rule when agreements are made between close relations there is a presumption against intention – this is a presumption of fact which ‘derives from experience of life and human nature which shoes that in such circumstances men and women usually do not intend to create legal rights and obligations, but intend to rely solely on family ties of mutual trust and affection. …’

His Honour considered that this presumption had been rebutted here – the parties did intend that Padavatton should have some legal rights - but also that this arrangement was not to continue indefinitely and had therefore validly terminated.

Fenton Atkinson LJ

Agreed with Danckwerts LJ – he noted that conduct subsequent to that act shed great light on the intent of the parties.  First, the daughter accepted £42 per month from her mother which was less than she had thought her mother had promised; second, many material matters were left open when the arrangement changed from direct financial support to the arrangement with the house; third, when the daughter was asked about her conduct in refusing to let her mother into the house on one occasion, testified that ‘I didn’t open the door because a normal mother doesn’t sue her daughter in court. …’  That provided a strong indication that the daughter ‘never for a moment contemplated the possibility of the mother or herself going to court to enforce legal obligations’.


Note: in Australia presumptions should no longer be used: see Ermogenous