Marine sues ex-wife for slander; she countersues
- 19 unverified comments
Thank you for your submission.Error report or correction
A Marine is suing his ex-wife for slander over claims she contacted his employer, falsely claiming he abandoned his family and failed to pay child support.
Jerry Rogers Jr. filed the lawsuit against Lori A. Rogers in district court in late September.
"The defendant either knew or should have known in the exercise of ordinary care that the statements were false and were intended to cripple the plaintiff's military career," according to the lawsuit. "These defamatory statements constitute slander."
She has since filed a countersuit, claiming abuse of process, which is the use of a legal process to accomplish an unlawful purpose.
"To shut her up, he hits her with a lawsuit," said Heather Godwin, Lori Rogers' attorney. "It is unfounded because nothing she said was untrue."
Rogers is a gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps and has completed numerous tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego before he was transferred to a reserve unit in Louisiana in June.
In November 2010, while in California, the couple divorced, ending more than 14 years of marriage.
The former wife was granted custody of the couple's two children, a 14-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl. She was also granted $1,396 in monthly child support and $250 in monthly spousal support until 2020, according to court documents.
They both live in Victoria County.
Slander tough to prove
"It is very unusual to have a slander lawsuit filed in a family law setting, but the military is an unusual setting," said James Paulsen, a law professor at South Texas College of Law. "There are potentially severe penalties if Mr. Rogers has indeed failed to pay his child support."
He pointed out that failure to pay child support could be considered a criminal offense in the military.
Aside from the military, slander cases can prove difficult to win, period, especially in family law.
"While there is no formal rule that says you can't sue for slander or libel in a divorce case, judges and lawyers tend to expect that in divorce cases people will say and do things they wouldn't normally do," said Paulsen. "Judges and lawyers try to roll with the punches while encouraging them to be civil."
Slander is difficult to prove because it has to be proven the comments were made on purpose and were not only false, but malicious, he said.
After reviewing the preliminary court filings, he said, "This strikes me as a case that should be resolved quickly out of court."
His side of the story
The lawsuit contends that in June, the ex-wife called Rogers' chain of command and made false allegations about him.
She also sent an email to him threatening to call the Marines' reserve lieutenant general to make additional false allegations.
In the lawsuit, Rogers claimed to be current on his child support and denied ever abandoning his family. He did point out that his transfer to the reserve base in Louisiana presented some administrative issues that needed to be resolved related to interstate payment plans.
Before the defendant's remarks, Rogers said he enjoyed a long and distinguished career and excellent professional reputation in the Marine Corps, according to the lawsuit.
But since the allegations were made, Rogers has endured shame, embarrassment, humiliation, mental pain and anguish and injury to his reputation, according to his lawsuit.
He is seeking damages for future losses of income and assignments as well as attorney's fees.
Additionally, he asked for and was granted a temporary restraining order, which has since lapsed, preventing his ex-wife from making further allegations to his employer.
Brian Rogers, Jerry Rogers' brother and attorney, did not return calls to the Advocate for comment.
Rogers could not be reached for comment because his phone number was unlisted.
Her side of the story
In her formal response and in a telephone conversation, Lori Rogers said her ex's claims are unfounded.
"It's been very emotionally draining. My life has been at a standstill waiting for the next shoe to drop," she said.
She is unemployed and lives with her parents and her children.
"It was my intent to find out why he was not paying the support and when he was going to pay it.
According to her formal response, she warned Rogers that if she could not get information regarding the support payment, she would call the military's family readiness officer.
When he failed to make a subsequent payment, she called the family readiness officer on Sept. 19.
She asked if the officer could help encourage her former husband to pay the support he owed, according to her response.
She explained he had been late on support payments on previous occasions, but she denied ever using the word "abandon" in regards to his actions.
On Sept. 20, the family readiness officer called to let her know Rogers had made a payment and that he claimed he no longer owed spousal support.
"Mr. Rogers is under the impression that a spousal judgment rendered in California is unenforceable in Texas," said Godwin, the ex-wife's attorney.
Godwin, who cited the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act as explanation why Jerry Rogers had to continue his payments, said no motion has been filed or granted to stop his spousal support payments.
"He's intimidating her for pursuing her rights to support herself," Godwin said.
Lori Rogers is seeking damages for actual, economic and compensatory damages.
"Ultimately, I want the harassment and bullying to stop," the ex-wife said. "I just want this to end so me and my kids can move on."
As of Nov. 18, she said Rogers had canceled visitations with his children, but not the three periods right before Nov. 18, and was up to date on his child support, but he had still not made a spousal support payment.
Corrected Nov. 28, 2011