Ward v Byham [1956] 1 WLR 496

Key points

  • Conferring a benefit that was obligated under statute is good consideration
  • Consideration need not be of financial value


  • A man (D) promised the mother (C) of his child to pay her $1 a week in return for the child being “well looked after and happy”
  • C is legally bound to look after her illegitimate child whereas the father is under no such obligation under s42 National Assistance Act 1948
  • D stopped payment after C got married
  • C sued for breach of contract

Held (Court of Appeal)

  • C’s claim allowed
  • Looking after the child was valid consideration

Denning LJ

  • Even though C in looking after the child is only doing what she is legally bound to do, that is sufficient consideration
  • “I have always thought that a promise to perform an existing duty, or the performance of it, should be regarded as good consideration, because it is a benefit to the person to whom it is given”: p. 498