Can I Sue My Ex for Defamation?

If you follow Hollywood news, you’ve probably heard a lot about the legal battle between Jonny Depp and Amber Heard. He is suing her for 50 million dollars for defamation for a 2018 op-ed piece in the Washington Post that alleged she was a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” She has counterclaimed for 100 million dollars, alleging that Depp and his former lawyer conspired to defame her by calling her allegations a hoax.

This article will provide an overview of defamation and California law to help explain how and when an ex can be sued for defamation. 


  •  What is defamation? 


  • Defamation is a broad term for statements that malign someone’s reputation. 
    • A statement made verbally is slander.  
    • A statement made in writing is libel.


  • What are the elements?


  • The statement must be false. A truthful statement, even if harmful, is not defamation. 
  • The statement must be presented as fact, not opinion, and be misleading intentionally, recklessly or negligently. 
  • It must be published, which means that someone besides you heard or read it. 
  • It must have actually hurt the reputation of the victim. 
  • It must have brought harm to the victim, such as a lost job or lost opportunity. 


  • Can statements made during my divorce trial or divorce settlement negotiations be defamation?


  • No, statements made during settlement negotiations would be made to your ex and their attorney, so they would almost never rise to the level of defamation. 
  • No, statements made during trial would not be defamatory because your purpose in going to trial is to tell the judge your side of the story. 


  •  Where can I find the laws relating to California defamation, i.e. libel and slander?


  • This is the link to the statute for slander:


Consult the Law Office of David Knecht

If you have questions about defamation and divorce or any family law question, please contact us at the  Law Office of David Knecht. We have extensive experience with divorce and family law issues and can answer your questions. Call us at 707-451-4502.