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Getting reunited with a spouse might feel so good, as Peaches & Herb once sang, but it could hurt your wallet in the end. Normally, a dependent spouse may not be entitled to support if he or she commits adultery. But an en banc Pennsylvania Superior Court has said those rules no longer apply if the parties attempt a reconciliation — even if they have sex just one time. The doctrine is called “condonation” and is defined as “a complete renewal of the martial relationship, or one single act of intercourse” that occurs after the adultery has been uncovered. It essentially means the non-cheating spouse has condoned the cheating spouse’s infidelity. The 8-1 majority in Hoffman v. Hoffman said it didn’t matter that the parties’ reconciliation attempt was not successful. The evidence showed Chauncey Hoffman condoned his wife Lou Ann’s adultery, the judges said, and remanded the case to the lower court. Judge James Cavanaugh dissented without filing an opinion. “[Chauncey] accepted [Lou Ann] back into the marital residence and resumed relations with her. He further began courting her in an attempt to restore the parties’ relationship,” Judge Michael Joyce wrote for the majority. “[Chauncey's] conduct thus evinced an intent to forgive or condone [Lou Ann's] prior adulterous behavior. It is only logical to conclude that had the parties’ attempted reconciliation been successful, this matter would not now be before this court.” Although Pennsylvania is a no-fault state where divorce is concerned, there are certain exceptions. Proof of adultery is one of those exceptions. Proof of condonation is a defense to adultery, Joyce said. Condonation “means the blotting out of the offense imputed, so as to restore the offending party to the same position he or she occupied before the offense was committed.” Joyce acknowledged it may seem “harsh” for one sexual act to constitute condonation but said, “This court must have an objective and conclusive test to utilize in determining whether condonation has occurred.” He said when a person discovers his or her spouse has committed adultery, he or she must decide whether the marriage can be saved and then decide whether to resume sexual relations. The court uses the resumption of sexual relations as the “objective standard by which to judge” condonation, he said. “The surrounding circumstances, such as the state of mind of that spouse, are subjective and cannot be accurately gauged. To find otherwise would require this court to engage in a subjective review of the parties’ marital relationship,” Joyce wrote. Lou Ann and Chauncey were married in 1990 and had one child together. In 1998, Chauncey found out Lou Ann had engaged in an extramarital affair with one of his relatives. Shortly after the revelation, Lou Ann went on a vacation to Florida. When she returned, she and Chauncey tried to reconcile without success. Joyce said both parties admitted they resumed sexual relations during the attempted period of reconciliation. Lou Ann filed a complaint for spousal support before she left the marital residence in August 1998. A hearing officer found she was not entitled to support because of her infidelity but granted her child support of $150 per month. The trial court entered a final order on the officer’s recommendations. A three-judge Superior Court panel heard Lou Ann’s appeal, and a two-judge majority vacated and remanded. The court granted her request for reargument en banc. The trial court made its decision on the basis of the hearing officer’s finding that the parties had not successfully reconciled, without delving into condonation law. But Joyce said it was clear the doctrine applied to the Hoffmans’ case.

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