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  1. #1
    anorcalmom2 is offline Junior Member
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    Grounds for Libel?

    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? CA

    I rented two bedrooms from a woman that I found on Craigslist back in 01/08. I lived there for 5 weeks and that was all it took for me to realize that it was not a suitable match for me and my children. Nothing super serious, she just always seemed wrapped up in some sort of drama with the lady next door...one day they were best friends, the next day she was telling me she was considering calling CPS on her. As well, there was a few occasions that I didn't appreciate the way she spoke to my children.

    When I moved out, it wasn't on the greatest of terms between us. But it was done quietly, amicably and I was paid up until the day I moved out.

    Because we lived together and actually were becoming friends after I moved in, we shared things to each other on a personal level.

    She knew that I was involved in a very high conflict custody battle with my ex and have been for several years now.

    Two weeks after I moved out, she called my 13 year old daughters cel phone (have no idea how she got the number!) and got my ex's number from her. She called my ex up and proceeded to say some pretty horrible things about me that were NOT true. Like I drank alcohol on a daily basis to the point of intoxication. That I hid bottles all around the house. That she was concerned for the safety and well being of her 9 year old son having me in the house. (Funny thing is about that....she left him home alone with me in my care every morning for about an hour and every afternoon for several hours until she got home from work.) Claimed that when I had my kids with me, I ignored them. The best one....One day I picked up my kids from Dad, came back home with them and left them all alone to watch tv while I took a shower. They are 10 & 13. Very capable of entertaining themselves for 20 minutes while I took a shower. Her and I had a few drinks together at home twice while I lived there. Other than that, she is completely lying.

    Long story short, she submitted a declaration in writing to my ex with regards to these lies in order for it to be used in our court case against me. Her statements along with some other things my ex's attorney conjured up in preparation for the court case(those were able to be shown in court to the judge to not be true, just like all the other allegations he's thrown the past 3 years).

    However, there was a lot of weight placed on this two page statement from my former roommate and the end result was that my children are now restricted to day time visits with me only.

    Do I have grounds here for a libel case and would it be something worth pursuing?? Its been 6 months now since I've been able to have my children spend the nite with me and trying to get that reversed has been so difficult due to I am pro per and he has a very aggressive attorney. But as far as the court is seeing it, its my word against hers and apparently they felt that her letter was written with the utmost sincerety.What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)?
  2. #2
    quincy is offline Senior Member
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    Your ex-roommate's letter is libelous if false, and you could certainly consider a defamation action against her - however you will need an attorney, and defamation actions are extremely expensive to pursue.

    There may be a free legal aid clinic in your area, or perhaps you live near a law school that operates a legal clinic, or you could take advantage of an attorney's "free initial consultation." Discuss your situation with the attorney you choose, to see what the attorney's thoughts are on your odds for success and what other avenues may be available for you to take.

    Although a lot of weight may have been placed by the court on this letter and its contents, there were other factors that were considered by the court as well, when placing your children with their father. Even if the contents of this letter were proved false, you still might find it a struggle to regain full custody or overnight visitation privileges, especially if your children's father is represented by an aggressive attorney and you have no attorney to assist you.

    What you may want to try, instead of a defamation action, is to get character references from others in your area who know you well, to balance the damaging words of your former roommate. If your former roommate has had disputes with the next-door neighbor, for instance, perhaps a statement from this next-door neighbor can prove helpful to you.

    I do think it would help for you to have an attorney of your own for the next court hearing, and legal aid clinics often have attorneys available to assist in divorce and custody actions.

    Good luck.
  3. #3
    Alex23 is offline Member
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    Maybe you could get the prosecutor to charge her with perjury and submitting false documents.
  4. #4
    anorcalmom2 is offline Junior Member
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    Thanks so much for the feedback!

    I wasn't sure if this fell under the catagory of "priveledged" defense given that it was a statement used in a legal action, so I am glad to know that it didn't.

    I will look into what help I can get from legal aid. I know that there is NOTHING in my county that can help me with the family law case. There is a facilitators office but all they can help with is the paperwork. Being that I was a paralegal student in the past, I know how to do that. But as far as pro bono or any help with family law, there is NOTHING. You either have a 3k retainer...and who can only imagine how much for the rest....or you find it till the bloody end on your own like I have! My ex and I have been to court over 20 and 9 different judges in the past 3 years....not fun!

    Thanks again and I will see what I can find.
  5. #5
    quincy is offline Senior Member
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    Ack! I am sorry, anorcalmom. I misled you a bit.

    If the letter from the ex-roommate was used in the court hearing only then, yes, it is considered privileged. You cannot sue your ex-roommate for defamation over the letter. You could, however, sue over the defamatory comments made about you when she first called your ex-husband. This, however, is definitely more difficult to prove.

    It really may be worth it for you to contact this next-door neighbor who has had some problems with your former roommate in the past. Your former roommate may have said something to her that reflects what was said in the letter - and if so, you could use these comments for a defamation action.

    Alex is right that there could potentially be perjury charges brought but, quite frankly, perjury committed in a divorce or custody hearing is rarely prosecuted.

    I would seek out help from a legal aid clinic and, again, try to gather as many character references as you can, to counter the letter from the ex-roommate.

    Good luck.

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