Can I sue someone for spreading lies about me?

I found out last night that my father in law (really long history there) is telling lies about me.

He claims he has this “proof” that I did some really horrible things, but he won’t tell anyone what that proof is.

I find it very hard to believe that he has any proof of anything since the things I’m being accused of never happened.

What can I do about this to make him stop it ? Can I sue him, have him fined ?


Depends on what he is saying, to some extent.

You could possibly sue him for slander or some privacy related tort.

I am not your lawyer. I am probably not a lawyer in your jurisdiction. This is not legal advice. This is not a pipe. See a qualified lawyer in your jurisdiction for specific legal advice.

Yes, you can sue for defamation (either libel or slander). Here’s a link with a good explanation of the action: Defamation

One issue is damages (that is, you need to be “damaged” to be able to collect). And, of course, “truth is a defense”. Damages can be hard to prove though, so the common law evolved to say that for certain types of statements, damages are “per se” (assumed to exist, so you don’t need to prove them). These “per se” statements are those contain:

Attacks on a person’s professional character or standing;
Allegations that an unmarried person is unchaste;
Allegations that a person is infected with a sexually transmitted disease;
Allegations that the person has committed a crime of moral turpitude.

Note that the laws are slightly different in different states; consult a lawyer, etc. etc.

I agree that you should talk to a lawyer. As noted, spreading lies about a person can in many circumstances be the tort of slander. Of course, there are other circumstances in which it may not be. You need to discuss your specific case with an attorney in your jurisdiction, but as I hope you’ve gathered from the thread, there may well be something in the law which could assist you. An attorney who is fully conversant with all the facts can help you determine next steps.


You can at least get a lawyer to send a letter threatening lawsuit, probably fairly cheaply, and go ahead and ask anybody who has heard him make these allegations to sign an affidavit (it will get back to them that they did this and let him know you’re serious).

If you don’t mind my asking (he asked rhetorically) would your husband be supportive if you sued his father?

My husband has made it clear that he won’t get involved.

I’m not quite sure how to interpret this. Does this mean “Go ahead if you want, I won’t stand in your way,” or does it mean “I refuse to get involved in suing my Dad?”

Makes a big difference in how far he will support you in this.

Family lawsuits are an ugly thing.

…and yet he remains your husband…

That’s what it means. He wants to stay neutral.

Chaulk him up as an idiot. If the rumors are untrue, call him on them, make him look the fool.

If none of that works, refuse to associate with him, and be sure that the rest of the extended family knows exactly why.

I count my lucky stars. I’m blessed with the greatest in-laws anyone could ask for. The FIL tends to be a bit opinionated, but I usually agree with his opinions, so it’s not too bad! :slight_smile:


You can sue for slander if it’s spoken, defamation/libel if it is written down. Eg if he posted leaflets about you, or wrote a letter to the local paper, or wrote letters to several people containing the allegations.

In terms of UK defamation law, the onus would be on you the plaintiff to prove the statement was capable of bearing libel: eg that “dragonling is a nasty bitch” injured your reputation among right-thinking people. Then the onus would be on the defendant to prove that the statement was true.

The muck-raking could and would be immense, the irony of a defamation action is that it frequently leaves the plaintiff’s reputation in worse shape than before.

In the UK pursuing an action is expensive, as you don’t get legal aid. However there is a third offence - malicious falsehood - for which you can get legal aid. This is a criminal offence, unlike libel/defamation which is civil. IIRC to successfully bring an action for malicious falsehood, the plaintiff has to prove financial loss.

IANAL, but my personal thoughts are:

  1. It could be immensely expensive for you to pursue an action, and if your FIL isn’t rich he could possibly declare bankruptcy even if you win, and you may get nothing.

  2. Your husband is displaying extraordinary disloyalty and lack of respect to you in not dealing with this. I would seriously consider threatening your husband with divorce unless he takes action. The fact that he won’t stop his own father from badmouthing you bodes very ill for your future relationship. If your husband could be persuaded or forced to intervene (which any decent spouse would have already done) then it might shut your father-in-law up cheaply and quickly.

  3. A stern lawyer’s letter, as suggested, might be the best, cheapest option to begin with, if your husband refuses to cooperate. In which case, I would have the letter cc-d to your husband’s workplace as part of the process.

istara, IIRC, dragongirl is trying to build up a nest egg so she CAN leave her husband, but it’s been pretty rough. (At least I hope she’s still going through with it!)

It’s taking some time, but I’m still working on it.

That puts a different spin on it. (And a happier one for me - as the guy sounds like a total hole).

In that case:

  1. Spend as little of your money as possible on lawyers (though spend your husband’s all you like!)

  2. If your husband’s lack of reponse could be useful in your divorce suit - eg an example of cruelty and neglect - then get a letter sent to your father-in-law in just your name, it could be a useful document later on

  3. Get the hell out of their as soon as you can. With all our love, sympathy and support. I can imagine how difficult it must be with kids and property involved, but better to start your new life as quickly as possible, and close the book on the old one.

That’s good to hear! I was worried about you.

Sounds like your FIL is trying to tear you down because he scents the divorce on the winds, so he’s working to make you look bad ahead of time. Cover your ass with paper proving his allegations false, save up, and get out. Don’t look back. Good luck.

Hiring a lawyer over a he said she said family feud is usually a was of time, money and emotional energy.

Yes, you’d at least need a third party witness that heard your FIL say these things. Preferably more than one. A disinterested party would be the most credible. But it will be expensive (no legal aid for plaintiffs in civil suits, IIRC) and will result in your dirty laundry becoming public record.

Godspeed on getting away from your husband. I don’t know your history, but just his “neutrality” in this instance makes him a right jerk – with friends like him …