How Do I Prevent Slander in Divorce?

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“I am in my 20’s and am in the process of dissolving my short-lived marriage (in California). There are no children, very few community assets or debts, our incomes were virtually the same and, in my impression, we can end this easily and quickly. I am currently in the process of obtaining an attorney and want to make sure that I make the right decisions, for one reason only: I am an emerging public figure and do not want to feel threatened by my wife airing dirty laundry on the court record.

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

I guess that most people in my situation have difficulty trusting their ex-spouses. Nevertheless, it is my suspicion that since she has nothing else to gain or lose, that she may try to have something slanderous entered on the court record. This especially concerns me when reading court records such as those on TheSmokingGun.com (http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive0630052astella1.html).

What would your recommendation be so that I don’t allow my ex-spouse the platform from which to slander my name? Considering that the community assets/debts are so small, I don’t know if it is incredibly wise to hire the best divorce lawyer in town. Nevertheless, one’s untainted reputation can be priceless. I just don’t know if a high-priced lawyer will be able to assist me more than a more moderately-priced lawyer, if my desire is simply to prevent the use of the court record as a pulpit for slander. Are there any actions that I can personally take in order to prevent the possibility of the airing of dirty laundry on court records (e.g. not contesting anything and not asking for anything)?”

After having read this thoroughly three times, I’m convinced that you should worry more about what you are going to do to your own reputation than what your wife may do. You’re overthinking this, and seem to have quite a self-important view of yourself. If this little bump can have you in this sort of quandry, you should perhaps rethink entering public life.

If your wife has bad things to say about you which are true, she’ll say them wherever she wants, in court, outside the courthouse, or in a full-page ad, and there is nothing you can do about it. That a statement is true is an absolute defense to a claim of slander.

If, on the other hand you are worried about her lying about you, well, if she’s going to, she’s going to. There’s little that you can do about it in advance.

Your best bet is to simply have the most amicable divorce you can, and that usually involves keeping it low key, and hiring a competent attorney, but not big guns.



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Author: Anne P. Mitchell, Esq.

Anne P. Mitchell, Esq. is a noted family law expert, Internet law expert, and Professor of Law at Lincoln Law School of San Jose. She is the author of "Surviving Divorce: the Single Father's Guide" and "The Email Deliverability Handbook"

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