What is Condonation?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 January 2020
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In legal terminology, condonation is the action of an accuser choosing to extend forgiveness to the perpetrator of an offense. Depending on the nature of the offense, this act of forgiving the action is interpreted to be grounds for dismissing a complaint made by the accuser in a court of law. In years past, condonation was often a factor in divorce proceedings, but may also be applied in other types of legal action.

As related to a divorce action, condonation has to do with implied or expressed forgiveness extended by the plaintiff to the defendant. For example, if the spouse who is suing for divorce has chosen to remain in the marriage after learning of the defendant’s infidelity, and continued to engage in intimate relations with the defendant, then the implication is that the infidelity was forgiven. As a result, the court would likely not consider the adultery as grounds for granting the divorce, since condonation had taken place.


The general concept of condonation can also apply in actions brought by individuals who have been terminated from an employment position for some breach of company policy or procedure. If the former employee can prove that the employer extended forgiveness for the actions that led to the employment dismissal, either by word or by the general conduct of the employer, then those actions may not be considered grounds for terminating the employment. Unless other factors that were not forgiven were involved in the dismissal, the former employee may have grounds to sue for wrongful termination.

Expressed or implied forgiveness may also make a difference in the outcome of legal action to collect on an outstanding debt. If the debtor can present evidence that the creditor at some point extended condonation for the debt, there is a good chance that the court will bar the creditor from attempting to pursue collection of that debt. This includes attempting to garnish wages or take any other legal action that is undertaken to compel the debtor to pay the debt.

It is important to note that condonation does not bar legal action in all situations, even if the offended party extends forgiveness. For example, if a community has specific laws regarding fighting in a public place, then two parties who initiate a brawl at a local bar can still be prosecuted, even if they forgive each other and receive forgiveness from the club owner. In regard to adultery, if an individual is unfaithful after his or her spouse has discovered and forgiven a previous incidence of infidelity, then the later incident would not be considered condoned or forgiven. Thus, the incident would serve as grounds for divorce in any jurisdiction that considered adultery to be a legal reason to end a marriage.


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