Typically, a divorce is not a simple process. Even consensual divorces can be challenging to pull off. Too often, however, divorces get ugly, and accusations start to fly. 

In many cases, the accusations are untrue or grossly exaggerated. One spouse might falsely accuse the other spouse of domestic violence, for example, to gain an advantage in child custody proceedings.

So, is it possible to sue your spouse for defamation during Georgia divorce proceedings? Yes, but there is no guarantee of victory.  

What Is Defamation?

You defame someone when you harm their reputation by making false statements about them. There are two kinds of defamation: libel and slander. Libel is written defamation, while slander is spoken defamation.

Every civil claim consists of several elements (facts) that you must prove to win. Defamation has four:

  1. The defendant made a false and derogatory statement about you;
  2. The false statement was communicated to a third party;
  3. The defendant made the statement negligently or maliciously; and
  4. You suffered harm (you don’t have to prove harm if the statement constitutes defamation per se). 

To win a defamation claim, you must prove all of the foregoing elements by “a preponderance of the evidence,” Failing to prove even one of these elements will defeat your claim. 

If you are a public figure, or if the statement was a matter of public concern, you have to prove that the defendant made the statement with malice.

Defamation Per Se

As stated above, you don’t have to prove that you suffered damages if your spouse’s statement constituted “defamation per se.” Defamation per se includes the following instances:

  • An accusation that you committed a crime; and
  • An accusation that you committed adultery.

You could run into problems proving defamation per se if your spouse’s utterance was privileged  (see the “privilege” defense below).


Following are some of the common defenses against defamation:

  • The defendant did not make the statement in question. It is easier to deny slander than to deny libel, for obvious reasons. The defendant might argue, for example, that they were misquoted.
  • The defendant did not “publish” the statement to a third party. You “publish” a statement even by verbally uttering gossip to a third party. Nothing has to appear in print.
  • Truth: If the statement is true, you have no case.
  • The statement was merely an expression of opinion (“Jake is a fool,” for example) 
  • You consented to the issuance of the statement.
  • The privilege defense: The defendant made the statement in court, and it was relevant to the proceedings. The privilege defense is complex and includes exceptions.

The defendant must prove any defense they assert by “a preponderance of the evidence”–51% or “more likely than not.”

Elaboration: Privilege and Divorce Proceedings

If the defendant made the allegedly defamatory statement under oath during court proceedings or at a deposition, they might enjoy a qualified privilege. Under certain circumstances, privilege might prevent a defamation claim from succeeding. 

Irrelevant and intentionally false statements enjoy no such protection, however. Since privilege in defamation proceedings is a complex issue, you should consult with a divorce lawyer in Lawrenceville.


The remedy for most civil claims is strictly financial. You sue a driver for causing a car accident that injured you, for example, seeking monetary damages. You can receive monetary damages for winning a defamation claim, too. 

What you can also win is a public retraction from the defendant as a way of repairing the reputational damage you suffered.

Special Rules for Public Figures and Matters of Public Concern

If you are a “public figure,” or if the defamatory statement involved a matter of public concern, Georgia law makes it harder for you to win a defamation case insofar as there are differences involving the burden of proof and the defendant’s intent. Talk to your lawyer for details.

It’s Probably Best To Negotiate Your Claim Out of Court

If the defamatory statement was highly publicized, you might have little to lose by taking your case to court. If the statement is little known, however, you could be publicizing it by taking it to court. 

Of course, a contentious divorce action already involves a court. Nevertheless, a formal defamation lawsuit could still increase public exposure to the defamatory statement. 

You’ll Probably Need a Lawyer To Pursue a Defamation Claim Against Your Spouse

Winning a defamation claim against your spouse is not necessarily easy, especially during divorce proceedings. You might find your defamation claim outright impossible if you represent yourself. 

An attorney who knows the local judicial system can greatly improve your odds of victory.

Contact the Divorce Lawyers at Crystal Wright Law To Get Legal Assistance Today

To learn more and get the help you deserve, call our family & divorce law firm at (404) 594-2143 or reach out to Crystal Wright Law online by visiting our contact us page. You can also visit our law firm at 440 S. Perry Street Suite 105, Lawrenceville, GA 30046.