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Jennings v. Hurt

Supreme Court of New York
Case C-344/87, 1989, 1989 E.C.R. 1621 (1989)



Sandra Jennings (plaintiff) and William Hurt (defendant) lived together from 1981 until 1984. Hurt was married when they met. In the spring of 1982, Jennings became pregnant with the couple’s child. They began negotiating a contract to provide financial support for their living arrangements and their child. In September 1982, Hurt asked his wife for a divorce because of his and Jennings’ impending baby. He told Jennings that the divorce did not mean he was committing himself to marry her. The divorce became final on December 3, 1982. Throughout their relationship, Hurt expressed to Jennings his dissatisfaction with the institution of marriage. From October 31, 1982 to January 10, 1983, Jennings and Hurt lived together in South Carolina while Hurt was filming “The Big Chill.” Their relationship was tempestuous during that time. At one point—the date is unclear—Hurt allegedly called Jennings’ obstetrician to ask about his “wife.” Otherwise, Hurt and Jennings did not put themselves forward as husband and wife in any manner. On December 27, 1982, Hurt signed a “Paternity Acknowledgement.” That same day, the couple got into an argument during which Hurt allegedly told Jennings that their arrangement did not matter because he considered themselves married “in the eyes of God” and “more married than married people.” Jennings later sued Hurt in a New York court to confirm that the couple had entered into a common-law marriage in South Carolina. The trial court considered her claim.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Silbermann, J.)

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