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Divorce: Can You Sue for Defamation after a Divorce?

Some divorce cases get very ugly, very fast even when both parties claim that they’re doing their best to be amiable and “fair.”

I don’t specialize in defamation cases but defamation can be related to divorce, especially when one or both sides begin to tear at the other’s character in order to get an upper hand in the proceedings.

Lesson Learned from High-Powered Divorce Attorneys

We all learned a great lesson from two high-powered divorce attorneys in New York City years ago. They were married to each other and making a lot of money when they decided it was time to get a divorce.

It was one of the worst divorce cases in recorded time. We watched from afar as they spent year after year battling in Court and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. About a week after the divorce was settled and everyone was catching their breath, the ex-wife sued the ex-husband for various reasons, one of which was defamation of character. 

As divorce attorneys, we now put language in our divorce agreements that waive either party’s right to sue for anything that has happened in the past. You’re free to sue the opposing party for something that has happened after the divorce case, but you cannot go back and sue for something that happened during or beforehand.

This is now standard practice for divorce attorneys. We really don’t want to subject our clients to a nasty divorce (although some clients are dead-set on having it that way), and we especially don’t want them to get slapped with a new lawsuit once it’s all said and done.

Settling without the Provision

Occasionally I’ll get a case where the opposing party refuses to give up his or her right to sue for defamation after the divorce is settled. In that case, I tell my client, “Do you really want to gamble that nothing will happen?”

Sometimes you just really can’t tell how far an angry ex-spouse will go to hurt their partner, so it’s best to make sure to have the provision included in your divorce settlement. I have seen people get so angry over their divorce case that they stop thinking rationally; in some cases, they’re so upset that they will even act in their own worst interest to get even with the other person. (As I’m writing this, a husband was so mad at his wife that he crashed an airplane into the house she was living in. He didn’t hurt her, but he died in the crash. That’s being upset.)

If you’re gearing up to go through a divorce, it’s crucial to have a professional attorney by your side. Not only to make sure that all your bases are covered legally, but also to give you a clear perspective as you work through a challenging time in your life. Having someone present to counsel you can help prevent you from taking action that may feel right in the moment, but upon further reflection, may not be in your best interest.

Ready to talk? Call our office at 303-449-1873 to set up a free consultation and learn about the next steps for your divorce process.