In South Carolina, physical cruelty has generally been defined as actual personal violence, or such a course of physical treatment that endangers life, limb or health, and renders cohabitation unsafe. Brown v. Brown, 215 S.C. 502, 508, 56 S.E. 2d 330, 333 (1949).
A single assault by one spouse upon the other spouse can constitute physical cruelty. The assault must, however, be life-threatening or must be either indicative of an intent to do serious bodily harm, or of such a degree as to raise a reasonable apprehension of great bodily harm in the future. McDowell v. McDowell, 300 S.C. 96, 966, 386 S.E. 2d 468, 469 (Ct. App. 1989).
Not every slight violence committed by the husband or wife against the other, even in anger, will authorize the divorce. Brown v. Brown, 215 S.C. 502, 509, 56 S.E. 2d 330, 333 (1949)
“Bodily injury” is not required in order to find “physical cruelty” if the wrongful act involves actual violence directed by one spouse at the other. Gibson v. Gibson, 283 S.C. 318, 323, 322 S.E.2d 680, 683 (Ct. App. 1984).
The burden is upon the complaining spouse to establish by the preponderance of the evidence the charges of physical cruelty against the other spouse. This carries with it the necessity of presenting corroboration of the material allegations of the compliant or an explanation of its absence. However, the rule requiring corroboration is not inflexible and may be relaxed where the circumstances of the particular case so warrant. Brown v. Brown, 215 S.C. 502, 512, 56 S.E. 2d 330, 335 (1949).
Condonation in the law of divorce means forgiveness, express or implied, by one spouse for a breach of marital duty by the other. More specifically, it is the forgiveness of an antecedent matrimonial offense on condition that it shall not be repeated, and that the offender shall thereafter treat the forgiving party with conjugal kindness. Condonation may be presumed from cohabitation; and lapse of time, or a continuance of marital cohabitation with knowledge of the offense, raises a presumption of condonation. McLaughlin v. McLaughlin, 244 S.C. 265, 274, 136 S.E. 2d 537, 541 (1964).
A divorce on the ground of physical cruelty will not be granted when the physical cruelty is provoked by the complaining spouse and the physical cruelty is not out of proportion to the provocation. McDowell v. McDowell, 300 S.C. 96, 99, 386 S.E. 2d 468, 469 (Ct. App. 1989).