Although less frequently relied upon as grounds for divorce nowadays, adultery and acts of cruel treatment by a spouse continue to play prominent roles in divorce proceedings. Nonetheless, one spouse’s condonation of the other’s adulterous acts or cruel behavior can significantly impact a right to divorce as well as claims for alimony and equitable division of marital assets. This article explores the subject of condonation and its role in divorce actions.

Georgia law defines condonation as a conditional forgiveness of all antecedent acts of cruelty and adultery.(1) Absent condonation, our state law recognizes adultery and acts of cruelty as independent grounds for divorce.(2) Absent condonation, a spouse’s adultery which caused the separation of the parties will defeat that spouse’s claim for alimony.(3) In the absence of condonation, a trier of fact may consider a spouse’s adultery or cruel treatment in determining how to equitably divide the parties’ marital assets on divorce.(4) Condonation can negate or diminish all of those effects, however.(5) Most significantly, the law expressly precludes a grant of divorce where “[t]here has been a voluntary condonation and cohabitation subsequent to the acts complained of, with notice thereof.”(6)

A couple’s continuing sexual intercourse after acts of adultery or cruel treatment constitutes “conclusive evidence” of condonation, although sexual intercourse itself is not an essential element of condonation.(7)

The principle of condonation carries an implied condition that the forgiven offense will not be repeated.(8) Thus, misconduct which one spouse may have condoned in the past may be revived by the other’s fresh acts of cruelty.(9) This concept applies to marital relations relied upon as condonation. Spouses’ continuing sexual intercourse will not function as condonation precluding divorce, where marital relations cease again and spousal misconduct thereafter occurs so as to revive the alleged past misbehavior.(10)

(1) Wood v. Wood, 283 Ga. 8, 11(5), 655 S.E.2d 611 (2008), citing Poulos v. Poulos, 226 Ga. 376(1), 174 S.E.2d 925 (1970). (2) O.C.G.A. §§ 19-5-3(6) and (10). (3) O.C.G.A. § 19-6-1(b); McEachern v. McEachern, 260 Ga. 320, 322(3), 394 S.E.2d 92 (1990); and Johnson v. Johnson, 218 Ga. 28, 29(3), 126 S.E.2d 229 (1962). (4) Frost v. Frost, 299 Ga. 278, 281-282(3), 787 S.E.2d 693 (2016); Ewing v. Ewing, 333 Ga. App. 766, 768, 777 S.E.2d 56 (2015); Wood, supra, 283 Ga. at 11(5); and Peters v. Peters, 248 Ga. 490, 491-492, 283 S.E.2d 454 (1981). (5) Frost, supra, 299 Ga. at 281-282(3); Wood, supra, 283 Ga. at 11(5); Poulos, supra, 226 Ga. at 376(1); Johnson, supra, 218 Ga. at 29(3); and O.C.G.A. § 19-5-4(a)(4). (6) O.C.G.A. § 19-5-4(a)(4). (7) Poulos, supra, 226 Ga. at 376(1). (8) Id. (9) Wood, supra, 283 Ga. at 11(5), citing Poulos, supra, 226 Ga. at 376(1). (10) Poulos, supra, 226 Ga. at 376(1).

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