Defamation is a serious matter, and I understand your desire to see
this case through.
However, it is also the case that defamation can be quite difficult to
establish in court. You basically need to demonstrate that someone
has spread untruthful remarks, has done so pretty much deliberately
and with intent to hurt you, and that the remarks have done damage to
you in a very concrete fashion.
All these may have occured in your case, and from your description of
the circumstances, you certainly seem to believe that they have.
However, believing them to have occured, and establishing before a
court of law that they did occur are two separate matters.
For instance, you state that you have never taken drugs. Someone else
says you have. In this he-said-she-said sort of situation, how would
you convince a court of law that you are telling the truth, and the
other person is lying? It can be a tough hurdle to get over.
But of course, defamation cases do go forward with fair regularity,
and people do sometimes win their cases. I've outlined below a bit
about how this process unfolds.
But before going forward, let me point out the disclaimer at the page
bottom. I am not a lawyer, and Google Answers is no substitute for
professional legal advice. Please take everything here with the
appropriate grains of salt, and do consider consulting with a lawyer
before making your final decision.
Let's start with a general overview of defamation, which is a general
term that includes slander (spoken defamation) and libel (written
defamation). Here's a good article covering the basics:
Can I Say That? Defamation Law Made Simple
Note that the article continues for several screens, and you'll need
to click through them to read the whole thing.
This is a general article, but the principles here are applciable in most states.
For some specifics on California, we can head to a very useful document:
Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions
NOTE that this is a very large file (over 2,000 pages) that takes a
long while to download.
These are jury instruction (guidelines given to jury members) covering
a wide variety of civil matters that come before the courts,
including, of course, defamation cases.
You should look over the defamation section carefully, but here are
some excerpts to note:
Defamation per se?Essential
[Name of plaintiff] claims that [name of defendant] harmed [him/her]
by making [one or more of] the following statement(s): [list all
claimed per se defamatory statements].
To establish this claim, [name of plaintiff] must prove that all of
the following are more likely true than not true:
1. That [name of defendant] made [one or more of] the statement(s) to
[a person/persons] other than [name of plaintiff];
2. That [this person/these people] reasonably understood that the
statement(s) [was/were] about [name of plaintiff];
3. [That [this person/these people] reasonably understood the
statement(s) to mean that [insert ground(s) for defamation per se,
e.g., ?[name of plaintiff] had committed a crime?];
4. That the statement(s) [was/were] false.
In addition, [name of plaintiff] must prove by clear and convincing
evidence that [name of defendant] knew the statement(s) [was/were]
false or had serious doubts about the truth of the statement(s).
If [name of plaintiff] has proved all of the above, the law assumes
that [his/her] reputation has been harmed. Without further evidence of
damage, [name of plaintiff] is entitled to a nominal sum such as one
dollar or such greater sum as you believe is proper for the assumed
harm to [his/her] reputation under the circumstances of this case.
[Name of plaintiff] is also entitled to recover if [he/she] proves it
is more likely true than not true that [name of defendant]?s wrongful
conduct was a substantial factor in causing any of the following
a. Harm to [name of plaintiff]?s property, business, trade,
profession, or occupation;
b. Expenses [name of plaintiff] had to pay as a result of the
c. Harm to [name of plaintiff]?s reputation in addition to that
assumed by the law; or
d. Shame, mortification, or hurt feelings.
[Name of plaintiff] may also recover damages to punish [name of
defendant] if [he/she] proves by clear and convincing evidence that
[name of defendant] acted with malice, oppression, or fraud.
?Malice? means that [name of defendant] acted with intent to cause
injury or that [his/her] conduct was despicable and was done with a
willful and knowing disregard of the rights or safety of another. A
person acts with knowing disregard when he or she is aware of the
probable dangerous consequences of his or her conduct and deliberately
fails to avoid those consequences.
?Oppression? means that [name of defendant]?s conduct was despicable
and subjected [name of plaintiff] to cruel and unjust hardship in
knowing disregard of [his/her] rights.
?Despicable conduct? is conduct that is so mean, vile, base, or
contemptible that it would be looked down on and despised by
?Fraud? means that [name of defendant] intentionally misrepresented or
concealed a material fact and did so intending to deprive [name of
plaintiff] of property or of a legal right or otherwise to cause
Note the part about "nominal damages"...you can win a case, and walk
away with $1 award from the jury. It happens!
If you decide you want to go ahead with a case, give some
consideration to filing a small claims case. This a much more
informal process than filing a full-fledged civil complaint, and is
limited to cases involving damages of $7,500 or less (so that is the
maximum you could claim in small claims).
The instructions for starting a small claims action in Fresno county are here:
If, instead, you decide to file a larger claim, you can begin by
filling out the form available here:
Civil Case Cover Sheet
and checking the box for a Defamation case, listed with "Other Torts".
You'll then have to call the Fresno courthouse for instructions on
filing the form, and next steps to take. Their contact information is
Fresno Superior Court
Finally, some prior answers here at Google Answers have dealt with
defamation, and are certainly worth a second look:
Defamation of Character/Slander
My sister is saying I'm insane. Is this Libel? How should I stop it?
Slander in California involving Public Employee
One last caution...you have posted a website with detailed information
on this case. Be aware that the child's mother may well be aware of
the site, and can possibly make a counter-claim of defamation, based
on the written record you have created (I'm not saying you've defamed
her, but she may feel otherwise).
I trust the information above will give you some good guidance for
whatever course of action you decide to undertake. If there's
anything else you need, however, just let me know by posting a Request
for Clarification, and I'm at your service.
Best of luck to you and the whole family,
search strategy -- used bookmarked sources on defamation