Say Matt has been sentenced to perform 10 hours of community service by a judge. His dad encourages him to be a good boy by offering him $1000 if he completes the hours. Matt accepts the offer. There is a text message record of this exchange. After Matt completes his community service, his dad reneges and doesn't give him the $1000.

Does Matt have a valid claim that he has a contract with his dad? Or does the community service not constitute sufficient consideration for a contract?

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    I pulled out the misdemeanor wording to make this slightly more general; let me know if you disagree – Pat W. Jun 15 '16 at 19:08


The community service is unlikely to be valid consideration.


While the father seemingly intends to induce performance via the offer, as in Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 81, judge-ordered community service is an exception.

In particular, Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 73 says performing a preexisting legal duty does not constitute consideration. For example, in McDevitt v. Stokes, 192 S.W. 681 (Ky. 1917), a breeder who had promised a horse jockey money if he won a race was allowed to renege on the promise because the jockey already had a professional duty to try to win.

Likewise, if you promise the police a reward if they bring the person who burgled your house to justice, they already have a preexisting duty to bring the criminal to justice.

There's a small window here to argue the opposite if the dad was trying to induce something above and beyond what the judge ordered.


Putting aside if performing a pre-existing legal duty (like court ordered community service) is consideration - it isn't, this is not a valid contract for lack of intent.

There is a presumption that agreements between family members are not intended to create legally binding contracts. This presumption can be overturned if there is evidence that both Matt and his dad intended that their agreement would be binding. A signed document with words like "we intend to create a legally binging contract" would be such evidence; a casual text message wouldn't.

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