Hewitt v. Hewitt
77 Ill.2d 49, 394 N.E.2d 1204 (1979)

  • Victoria lived with Robert for 15 years in an unmarried relationship. They even had three kids together.
    • Victoria worked and helped Robert through dental school.
  • The broke up, and Victoria filed for divorce. However, the judge found there had never been a marriage license, so they couldn’t get a divorce.
  • Victoria filed an amended complaint alleging that:
    • Robert promised he would share his property with her.
    • There was an implied contract.
    • Robert fraudulently claimed he would take care of Victoria to stop her from seeking a marriage license.
    • Robert was unjustly enriched by their relationship.
  • The Trial Court dismissed the complaint. Victoria appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that Illinois law and public policy require the claims to be based on a valid marriage.
  • The Appellate Court reversed. Robert appealed.
    • The Appellate Court found that the pair had lived a conventional married life, and their relationship did not “affront public policy.”
  • The Illinois Supreme Court reversed.
    • The Illinois Supreme Court found that the Illinois Legislature addressed the problem of dissolution of families in the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.
      • Basically, the Court was saying that there was a way to ensure relief, and that is to get married. The Legislature had provided a way for people to protect their interests through a marriage contract. For the courts to enforce basically the same thing without a marriage contract would be in contravention of the statutory scheme. Otherwise the Court would be “legislating from the bench” by creating a de facto common law marriage, which the Legislature had specifically rejected.
    • The Court found that enforcing non-marital contracts would make living together an attractive alternative to getting married, and that would contravene public policy.
    • The Court noted that this ruling only effects Robert’s obligations to Victoria. He still has to pay child support to his kids.
  • Basically, this case said that there is already a way to get marital benefits, and that’s to get married. By giving non-married couples marital rights makes getting married pointless.
    • Compare to Watts v. Watts (137 Wis.2d 506 (1987)), which found that regardless of public policy, the spouse was entitled to equitable relief. Otherwise it would be unfair.