In Law, what is Connivance?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Connivance is a legal term used to describe a situation in which someone gave active consent to wrongdoing. When someone connives, she or he knows that a given activity is not legal and yet does not oppose it when someone else engages in it. This term is usually used in situations where the connivance has a conspiratorial aspect. It is not quite the same as collusion, a similar charge which involves plotting together to commit wrongdoing.

Thomas Hobbes wrote about a "social contract", which is the set of unwritten rules and expectations for which members of a society are expected to comply.
Thomas Hobbes wrote about a "social contract", which is the set of unwritten rules and expectations for which members of a society are expected to comply.

When someone is accused of connivance, it must be demonstrated that this person either assented to illegal activity or actively encouraged it. For example, in a relationship where the partners file taxes separately, one partner could encourage the other to falsify tax information for the purpose of getting a bigger tax refund. This would be connivance. Likewise, if one partner mentioned that she or he was thinking about falsifying information to increase the size of the refund and the other assented to this, it would be considered connivance.

There are a number of situations in which connivance can be involved. Once someone assents to or encourages illegal activity, there is usually some twisting of the truth, because both parties have a reason to cover up their involvement. In the eyes of the law, supporting illegal activity is punishable just like actually engaging in that activity. Ethicists also argue that activities such as connivance are in violation of the idea of a social contract and the argument that people must behave lawfully in order for society to function.

This legal concept used to come up in divorce proceedings. If one partner encouraged the other to engage in adultery and then attempted to divorce on grounds of adultery, the case might be thrown out because the judge would argue that people cannot seek judicial remedies for situations they themselves have created. However, connivance is no longer widely used as a defense for divorce, under the argument that the marriage is already compromised and there would be no reason to force the partners to stay together. Most regions also allow no fault divorce, in which case there would be no need to present a case for divorce.

There are a number of legal terms related to connivance which have slightly different meanings, including collusion, conspiracy, and condonation. These activities may be treated distinctly under the law and can be penalized in different ways in a court of law.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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