Half-Sister from Hell

21 Feb

Letterbalm Angry Black-Haired WomanDear LetterBalm: I have a half-sister who is rather tightly wound. Three years ago, she got offended by something my 22-year-old daughter supposedly said to her. She got terribly angry and stopped celebrating birthdays and holidays with the whole family. We’re all pretty happy about this because she usually picks fights when she’s with us. Well, it turns out she contacted the IRS and falsely reported that a member of the family had underpaid his taxes. He had to work hard to straighten everything out. She also stole and ran up charges on her grown kids’ credit cards and posted defamatory information on several family Facebook pages. Is there any way to get through to my family who want to go after her with pitchforks and torches?

–Calm in the Storm

Yikes. The family Frankenstein monster. Ms. L.B. isn’t a legal expert, but she trusts that you’ll consult an impartial source – a lawyer or mediator – who will be able to advise your family as to how to proceed. Family members might be able to sue for libel if they can prove the false Facebook postings materially damaged them (social status, personal wealth, employment and other circumstances) and if they can prove financial or emotional harm. Your family is certainly entitled to be angry, but cooler heads must prevail. No retribution, including flame e-mails, Facebook posts and heated texts from now on, please. Sit down for a family meeting and say:

I’m so glad to see everybody here today. We’ve gotten legal advice, and we’ll have more to say about that in a minute. But first, I want to say that this will be a long slog. I know it will be difficult, but we need to give Rayetta a wide berth – no contact with her whatsoever. The lawyer says that contacting her could work against us and could damage whatever actions we decide to take. What Rayetta has done is blatantly illegal and certainly not the path to family harmony. She’s being vindictive and vengeful, and she’s unlikely to take responsibility for her own actions. We need to be the wise ones in this scenario; we all have to keep our heads and pull together.

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