Legal Question in Civil Litigation in California

what constitutes harassment & defemation/slander?

My wife's ex husband continually makes false claims to family mediators and family court declarations stating that I physically abuse their son that they both have joint custody of. It has always been found to be false. He does this because he wants full custody of the child. Since I am not part of their divorce, and since it is causing me much grief, can I personally take any legal action to get him to stop? I am also in sales, and if word got out, false or not, it could hurt my business.

Asked on 11/28/00, 12:05 am

3 Answers from Attorneys

Norman Gregory Fernandez, Esq. The Law Offices of Norman Gregory Fernandez & Associates

Re: what constitutes harassment & defemation/slander?

Your ex's husband is protected so long as he makes allegations to the Court or Court appointees. If he makes out of Court statments to 3rd parties you can sue for defamation and other possible torts. You need to get involved in this case and make a declaration of your own denying his allegations!!

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Answered on 11/29/00, 6:43 pm

John Hayes The John Hayes Law Offices

Re: what constitutes harassment & defemation/slander?

Unfortunately, this happens a lot in divorce/custody cases. An angry spouse will make accusations in Court to get custody, or simply just to make life hell for everyone. However, until these remarks are made outside the courtroom, you can't really do anything about it. If he is stupid enough to say something outside the courtroom you have immediate grounds for slander. You can sue someone for slander if you can prove that the statements they made were false, and that they knew them to be false. Since there is a court record of his unfounded allegations, it wouldn't be hard to prove. You may not be able to get any monetary damages you win out of him, but he will think twice before ever saying anything again for the simple fact he will have to pay hundreds, if not thousands, in court and legal fees just to file an answer to the complaint and hire a lawyer.

You may also want to talk to your wife's lawyer about filing a declaration stating your position and asserting your innocense whenever this guy accuses you of abuse. This gives you a way to fight back and you can show the Court that you take these kinds of false allegations seriously.

If he is stupid enough to start telling people these lies, and you would like to proceed with filing a lawsuit, please feel free to contact my office. Your wife's attorney may be able to help you, but most attorneys who handle family law do so exclusively and usually recommend you find an attorney who handles civil litigation, my primary practice. You can reach my office by email at [email protected], or by phone toll free at 877-546-9918. I offer free, no obligation consultations on all civil matters.

I wish you the best of luck, and I hope for you and your wife's sanity that this guy keep his mouth shut!


John Hayes, Esq.

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Answered on 12/01/00, 5:21 am
Ken Koury Kenneth P. Koury, Esq.

Re: what constitutes harassment & defemation/slander?

With very few exceptions, you cannot sue somebody for statements they make within a legal proceeding. The statements are considered privileged. The usual way to fight this, is to convince a court to the statements are false and then ask for a court order that the other side pay your attorney fees, or the attorney fees of your spouse. Please note: although the statements made in court or in court documents are privileged and you cannot sue because of them, if the party were to repeat the same allegations outside of court, they would be no privilege for the out-of-court statements and you could then sue them for defamation.

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Answered on 11/30/00, 1:43 am

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