Minnesota Court of Appeals Releases Decision in Defamation Case Involving Divorce

At the end of April, the Minnesota Court of Appeals released an unpublished decision in the case of Molitor v. Molitor, a defamation lawsuit filed by a husband against his wife.

The case was closely tied to the couple’s divorce. The two were married in 2008 and had a daughter in 2012 before separating in late 2013. The week before the separation, the father brought in the daughter for a checkup, during which the physician reported the daughter to be in good health. The next day, the father brought the daughter to her mother as part of their time-sharing routine. The mother said her daughter told her that her “butt hurt,” and the mother also noticed that her daughter’s stools were unusually dark.

The mother, after becoming concerned that the symptoms could be related to sexual abuse after looking up the symptoms online, called a sexual abuse hotline. She was instructed to take her daughter to the emergency room, where she told the physician that when she picked her daughter up from her father, the girl looked “unkempt and inattentive,” had dark stools, was reluctant to wear a diaper and complained of sexual abuse. However, the doctor’s exam of the girl found no signs of abuse, and she was discharged right away.

The father filed for divorce the next month. Nine months later, he filed a defamation suit against the mother over false statements of sexual abuse.

The court’s decision

The mother filed for summary judgment in the case, stating there was no evidence on record to support the assertion of these false claims, and the district court agreed with her. In the appeal, the father argued he did present issues of fact on whether the mother had made false statements to a physician and their defamatory nature. Upon analysis, the appeals court determined the statements the mother made were indeed capable of defamation and the case was sent back to the district court.

There is not much on record in Minnesota regarding defamation cases between former spouses, so the fallout of this case could affect future lawsuits. It is another reminder to be careful about what you say to and about your spouse as you go through the divorce process.

To learn more about his and other issues related to your divorce, contact a skilled Minnesota family law attorney with Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A.

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