COA Affirms Trial Court Decision to Enforce Cohabitation Contract

Family Law Case Review

Case: Tina L. Hemingway v. John P. Scott
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Boyfriend conveyed his residence into joint title with Girlfriend, pursuant to a cohabitation agreement that further provided Girlfriend would quitclaim her interest back to Boyfriend in the event she ever “cheated” on him. The contract was held to be enforceable when Girlfriend subsequently cheated.

NOTED: In dicta, the Court of Appeals suggested that, as a matter of law, cohabitation contracts are on par with premarital agreements in terms of their legal recognition and enforceability.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Boyfriend and Girlfriend began an on-and-off relationship in 2004. In 2012, the parties executed a contract, penned by Girlfriend, pursuant to which Boyfriend agreed to put his residence into joint title with Girlfriend. The contract also included a breach provision requiring Girlfriend to quitclaim the property back to Boyfriend in the event she “cheated.” The same day the contract was executed, Boyfriend executed a deed conveying the property into joint title, which was subsequently recorded.

Two months later, while the parties were living together, Girlfriend became pregnant, indisputably by another man. Boyfriend gave Girlfriend notice of her breach, and requested a conveyance of the real estate back to Boyfriend. Litigation ensued.

The trial court found in Boyfriend’s favor, based upon enforcement of the contract, and ordered Girlfriend to execute a quitclaim deed in Boyfriend’s favor. Girlfriend appealed.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision. The Court noted Indiana’s deep history of supporting the right of competent adults to enter into contracts. The Court rejected Girlfriend’s argument that this contract violated public policy by requiring her forbearance in sexual activity.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Tina L. Hemingway v. John P. Scott

 

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James A. Reed and Michael R. Kohlhaas of Bingham Greenebaum Doll represent clients in a wide spectrum of relationship transition and wealth planning matters, including premarital agreements, estate planning, cohabitation, separation, divorce (especially involving high net worth individuals and/or complex asset issues), custody, parenting arrangements, adoption, and domestic partnerships. Bingham Greenebaum Doll, a multidisciplinary law firm serving regional, national, and international clients, is the fourth-largest law firm in Indiana. The firm’s main practices include corporate, property, litigation, labor, government law, and personal services law. Visit the firm’s website at www.bgdlegal.com.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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