Possible Slander?

Hi,
I am just wondering if you could advise me on a situation my wife
and I have found ourselves in.
A couple that live near by are going through marriage problems, his
wife is blaming my wife for their break up. She has accused them of
having an affair. My wife and I have been friends with this man for
a number of years now, there has been txt messages exchanged between
this man and my wife which I am fully aware of but nothing more.
This morning this lady arrived to our door telling me about the
situation, she even accused my wife of not knowing who the father of
our unborn baby was. Is there anything we can do or should we just
leave well enough alone and let them sort their own problems out. My
wife and myself have a happy marriage and don’t want any hassle.

Asked on September 20, 2016 under Family Law, Arkansas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Defamation (slander is oral, or unwritten defamation; libel is written defamation--technically, they have slightly different rules, but are similar enough that we can discuss them together) is when someone makes an untrue statement of fact which damages your reputation to *other* people--i.e. to  third parties. If the statements are made only to you, that may be insulting, annoying, etc. but it's not slander; another person can say anything they like to you and it's not legally actionable.
So if the wife confines her accusations to just you and your wife--she does not make them to third parties--you can't sue her; leave well enough alone. But if you hear that she has made her accusations or claims to other people, then since the claim that your wife has had an affair or has a child other than by you is a (presumably) untrue factual statement, it would be defamation; and therefore, if that untrue factual claim is made to other people, damaging your reputation, you could at that time sue her for monetary compensation and/or to get a court order requiring her to desist.


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