Physical cruelty has been generally defined as actual personal violence, such as a course of physical treatment that endangers life, limb or health, and renders cohabitation unsafe.
A single assault by one spouse upon the other spouse can constitute physical cruelty. The assault must, however, be life-threatening or must be indicative of an intent to do serious bodily harm, or such a degree as to raise reasonable apprehension of great bodily harm in the future.
Not every slight violence committed by a spouse against the other spouse, even in anger, will authorize divorce.
“Bodily injury” is not required to find “physical cruelty” if the wrongful act involves actual violence directed by one spouse at the other.
So-called mental or emotional cruelty is not sufficient to grant a divorce on the grounds of physical cruelty.
The complaining spouse must establish by the preponderance of the evidence the charge of physical cruelty against the other spouse. This burden of proof carries with it the necessity of presenting corroboration of the material allegations. The requirement of corroboration is not inflexible and may be relaxed with the circumstances of the particular case so warrant.
Condonation is a defense to a claim of physical cruelty. Condonation means forgiveness express or implied, by one spouse for a breach of marital duty by the other. Condonation is the forgiveness of the antecedent matrimonial offense on the condition that the marital offense shall not be repeated and that the offender treat the forgiving party with conjugal kindness. Condonation may be nullified by subsequent acts of physical cruelty, which revive the formerly acts of physical cruelty. Reconciliation (resumption of marital cohabitation) is another form of condonation and it is a defense to the charge of physical cruelty.
Recrimination is a defense to a charge of physical cruelty. Recrimination may arise from any conduct that has not been condoned which would be independently be sufficient as a ground for divorce itself, such as adultery, physical cruelty, habitual drunkenness, or desertion by the other spouse. In other words, if both spouses have committed acts sufficient to give rise to an action for divorce, neither spouse is entitled to a divorce on fault grounds.
Collusion, like connivance, is also a defense to a charge of physical cruelty. That means the parties agreed that one spouse would commit an act of physical cruelty in order to facilitate the Court granting a divorce.
Provocation is a defense to claim for physical cruelty. Provocation means that act of physical cruelty was provoked by the complaining spouse and the physical cruelty was not out of proportion to the provocation.