Everyone knows that the end of a marriage can be bitter, but few divorces can be more so than one in which a businessman has started legal
proceedings against his ex-wife, claiming £150,000 in libel damages after she bad-mouthed him on Facebook.
The businessman argued that his former partner had painted him as a ‘vile, angry misogynist’ and a ‘dangerous and thoroughly disreputable man’ on the social network. He also sued over an email which he claimed suggested that he had subjected her to mental, sexual and physical abuse throughout their marriage.
The ex-wife claimed, amongst other things, that his complaints were trivial, that he had suffered no real or substantial harm and that he had vindictive motives for launching the claim. She also relied upon the defences of justification and fair comment.
Following a preliminary hearing, the High Court described the case as ‘unfortunate’ and ‘unappealing’ but rejected the businessman’s application to strike out parts of his ex-wife’s defence. The ruling opened the way for the case to proceed to a full trial, the costs of which are expected to be in the region of £700,000.
Not only can an overly acrimonious approach cause difficulties in achieving a negotiated settlement but, taken too far, it can lead to complications such as in this case.