Defining “Condonation”

 During a separation, spouses may accuse one another of acts of marital misconduct. In Chapter 50 of the North Carolina General Statutes, there is a list of actions that could constitute marital misconduct if committed by a spouse. Below are a few common actions from that list:

  • If a spouse abandons his or her family 
  • If a spouse commits adultery (defined as “the voluntary sexual intercourse of a married person with someone other than his or her spouse”)
  • If a spouse maliciously turns the other out of doors (kicks the other person out of the home against the other person’s will)
  • If a spouse endangers the life of the other spouse by cruel or barbarous treatment (typically, physical abuse)
  • If a spouse becomes an excessive user of alcohol or drugs so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and the life of that spouse burdensome

Marital misconduct relates to alimony and, in certain situations, can bar a financially dependent spouse from receiving alimony or require the supporting spouse to pay alimony. However, there are defenses that can be used to excuse the bad behavior.

One such defense is the defense of condonation, which is the “conditional remission or forgiveness, by one of the married parties. . . the condition being that the offense shall not be repeated.” For example, if one spouse forgives the other spouse for having an affair, he or she does so on the condition that the spouse that cheated agrees to never cheat again. 

To prove condonation, the spouse at fault must first prove that the innocent spouse knew that the misconduct occurred. The spouse at fault must then show that the innocent spouse voluntarily chose to continue the marital relationship. This forgiveness can be shown through physical proof, such as with a text message or letter, or by voluntarily engaging in sexual intercourse after knowing about the marital fault. However, it should be noted that isolated acts of sexual intercourse are not enough to give a spouse the defense of condonation (Gilmartin v. Gilmartin, 2018).

 Dealing with things like marital misconduct is never pleasant. Since situations like this can often become complicated, it is important to have an experienced family law attorney there to help you through it. Contact us today to set up a consultation if you have questions or need help.