Is a verbal agreement enforceable?

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Is a verbal agreement enforceable?

I was engaged to my fiancée for approx 18 months. I began paying her (very high) mortgage payments 12 months ago. The verbal agreement was: We would be married, and sell the house for a profit and move to FL. We are no longer engaged. Do I have a claim? I have paid over $100,00 in her mortgage payments over the past 12 months.

Asked on February 15, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If the agreement was that you would make these payments in exchange for being married, that agreement is NOT enforceable; agreements made in consideration of marriage (e.g. where getting married is one of the objects or terms of the agreement) are never enforceable. If marriage is not a factor in the economic part of the agreement at all, and the agreement was that you would make payments now in exchange for splitting the profit of a home sale, then the agreement *might* be enforceable--though what's known as the "statute of frauds" requires certaiin agreements, such as those requiring more than 1 year to fulfill or to "answer for the debts" of another, to be in writing. In addition, proving the terms of a verbal or oral agreement can be very difficult, especially if the other party disputes your recollection. Finally, if it's found that you made the payments as a gift--not unreasonable; people often gift their fiances--then it can't be recovered either.

In short, in the narrow case of the agreement being construed to be a simple, straightforward agreement to pay the mortgage in exchange for getting an equity stake and splitting sale proceeds, it *might* be enforceable, though proving it may still be difficult and the agreement may fall under one or more of the categories that must be in writing. Given how much money is involved, it would be worth consulting with an attorney who can evaluate all the specifics of your situation.


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