Connivance most commonly refers to a defense in divorce law in which a spouse accused of adultery, or another form of sexual misconduct, asserts that the other spouse consented to the adultery. The modern availability of no-fault divorce has likely made the defense less prevalent. This Virginia Court of Appeals case notes that the connivance defense is rooted in the maxim of volenti non fit injuria, which states that a person cannot claim to be injured by an act they consented to. The consent necessary to establish connivance can either be expressed, such as when one spouse explicitly encourages or arranges for the other to engage in adultery, or implied, so long as the consent is found to be “corrupt.” As noted in this Massachusetts Supreme case, the spouse accused of implicitly consenting to connivance must have intended, desired, or, at the least, been unopposed to the other spouse’s adultery. Thus, there is usually no connivance if a spouse merely knows of the other’s adultery but is helpless to stop it, or they know of the adultery and let it continue in order to obtain proof for the divorce.
Connivance is also sometimes used more broadly to describe when a person, in bad faith, ignores another person’s wrongful act or implicitly consents to its commission.
[Last updated in June of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]