In marriage, the voluntary pardoning by an innocent spouse of an offense committed by his or herpartner conditioned upon the promise that it will not recur.
Condonation, which is used as a defense in divorce actions based on fault grounds, is strongly supported by public policy. The institution of marriage and its preservation are considered essential for the stability of society, and therefore condonation is encouraged to promote the notion that marriages should not be lightly dissolved.
The elements of condonation are the resumption of normal marital relations after knowledge of the offense or offenses and the promise that the offense will not be repeated. Various cases have attempted to interpret whether or not condonation has actually taken place. If, for example, a wife commits adultery and her husband, after discovering this, allows her to return to their home but does not resume normal marital relations with her, a full condonation has not taken place. Whether or not a marital relationship has been fully resumed is generally considered to be a question of fact in divorce cases.
Whether or not condonation has taken place is important in the area of maintenance or support obligations. In many states, remedies for nonsupport will be granted only when there is a showing that the husband has been guilty of a serious marital offense. If a husband who has committed such an offense can prove condonation, he can use this as a defense to his wife's claim of nonsupport. Similarly, condonation has important consequences in formulating the grounds for divorce. If a woman's husband has beaten her on a few occasions but she subsequently continued to cohabit with him, she might later be unable to sue for divorce on grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment.
Some offenses, such as mental cruelty, due to their ongoing, continuous nature, may not be eliminated by a showing of condonation.