Getting a divorce is said to be one of the most stressful life events. Emotions often run high and it is extremely common for both parties to say unkind or hurtful statements about each other.
What happens if your spouse does or says something which causes permanent damage to your reputation? We take a closer look…
What is defamation in divorce?
Defamation is actually an umbrella term for both slander and libel. Libel generally involves written statements that adversely affect someone’s reputation. Slander, on the other hand, primarily involves spoken words which do the same.
While many people think of defamation cases as involving celebrities, this is not always the case. Defamation claims can occur between husband and wife, as a result of one party saying or writing something about the other which could harm that person’s reputation.
When does an unkind comment become defamation?
If the statement could damage the reputation of the other spouse, this could potentially be viewed as defamation. If your spouse has made a statement (written or spoken) which has caused damage to your reputation, it is important to seek advice from a solicitor to find out if a claim can be made against your spouse for defamation.
Generally, the person making the claim would have to prove that the statement was false.
It is worth noting here that defamation which occurs within a marriage (so before the divorce has been finalised) may be subject to spousal privilege, which could mean that a claim for defamation may not be able to be pursued. Spousal privilege gives immunity to spouses in civil or criminal matters. This means that things said during the divorce could be subject to spousal privilege. As a result, the defamation normally has to occur outside of the divorce proceedings in court. In addition, the statement must damage the reputation of the spouse in a more direct way, such as harming their ability to be able to get a job.
As Grayfords we recognise the risk to personal and professional reputation which accusations thrown around during divorce proceedings can present. A reputation which took years to build can be irreparably damaged in minutes. As such, all of our clients have access to pioneering online reputation management software free of charge throughout the duration of their case, enabling us to identify threats and act quickly when an issue arises.
To find out more about reputation management and how we can help with your divorce, get in touch to book your free initial consultation with one of our experienced divorce lawyers.
Neil Graham, a Partner at Grayfords, comments as follows: “the breakdown of a marriage can often be a challenging time and accomplishing the process with dignity and as amicably as possible is key to minimising the impact of the breakdown on both parties and especially on the children. Public allegations or accusations outside the confidentiality of any proceedings, no matter how tempting in the heat of the moment, may give rise to a claim in defamation but, more importantly, will usually only exacerbate the breakdown of the relationship, make it harder to resolve any differences between the parties amicably and may cause significant distress and upset to any children of the family.”