Defamation, Slander & Libel during Divorce
Are you fed up with your soon to be ex-spouse saying awful, embarrassing, remarks or accusations about you? Most divorce cases involve a lot of tumult and emotional conversations which take time to settle down. But often, clients wonder if there is something they can do now to make it stop such as suing for defamation.
Time after time, clients become frustrated by negative dialogue that takes place throughout the divorce process or after the decree is entered. Whether it’s libel (written) or slander (oral), they begin tracking comments and creating a paper trail or simply call to vent. We know it is difficult but it is very rare that a defamation case actually exists.
To clarify, standing for a defamation case requires the existence of an untrue defamatory comment which was publicized with malice and which causes harm to the plaintiff. Generally, we do not see these complaints escalate to the level of publicized falsehoods; although it is certainly possible. When there are damages to the Plaintiff, a defamation case is likely.
Defamation is much more than opinion and some unsavory (but true) comments – it’s the type of language that is so offensive, a court would not tolerate it. Unfortunately, the courts have ruled that our society today has a high level of tolerance for defamatory language; which raises the threshold on what it would take to impress a judge and prove defamation occurred. The comments would have to be so bad as to adversely affect the reputation of the plaintiff, to the extent that people would shun or avoid the “victim”.
There do exist certain criteria that would qualify as defamation, without the plaintiff having to prove there were damages. These comments are considered so inherently damaging that the court does not demand further evidence. These include: imputing to the plaintiff a criminal offense, loathsome disease, business misconduct, or any serious sexual misconduct. Those alone meet the definition of defamation and no further burden of proof would be upon the plaintiff.
As a defense to defamation, Pennsylvania law states that communication can be protected by a conditional privilege. The court may determine that public interest outweighs the right of the plaintiff to maintain protection from defamation. Basically, if a comment was publicized with the intention to help or inform the greater public, the court may find that the plaintiff does not get the protections provided under defamation.
There is also a concept called absolute privilege which permits any statements in a judicial proceeding or pleading; this serves as a way for parties to get through their proceedings without having to worry about defamation cases. The information that could come to light may be of use to the case and is seen as more important to the public interest. Lay terms? Your ex can say whatever he or she wants in a divorce or custody hearing, barring the aforementioned comment types.
Whether you are involved in a divorce or not, defamation is a real threat to individuals – with social media so accessible, damages are certainly possible. If you think you have a defamation case, speak with the experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of Michael Kuldiner, P.C. to find out more. We can determine if your extreme case fits the criteria and aggressively fight for your rights.
Call (215) 693-6191 today to schedule your consultation with an attorney.