Dear Readers,

Last week, I answered a question that involved a therapist who had a child who was alienated from her father. Rather than suggesting that the child and father come to therapy together, the therapist suggested that the child plant mousetraps in the father’s yard with the word “freedom” written on the mousetrap. My favorite reader comment was from a local therapist who said that the mousetrap therapy was additional parental alienation by this therapist.



Dear Carolyn,

As ridiculous as this sounds, my ex is trying to hold me in contempt of court for the following.

I had visitation with my two sons over spring break. We drove, and we stayed at the Marriott in Huntsville, Alabama. We valet parked. We had lots of fun and learning experiences at the US Space and Rocket Center.

I planned the timing so I would arrive home in Greensboro one hour early, allowing for unforeseen contingencies. Instead of arriving one hour early, I arrived one hour late. The problem – the hotel will not let you call for your car to be brought out of valet until you are physically present and in line. Then there was an unexpected back-up of cars. The whole thing is Marriott’s fault.

I called my ex as soon as I realized I was not going to be on time per our custody court order. She went ballistic as always.

My valet ticket said I coud text my valet ticket number to a text messaging number for the valet to bring up my car. Further, I called customer service to bring up my car. Customer service said I had to go the valet ticket line at the front of the hotel to get my car brought up. After standing in line 15 minutes, I presented my ticket and was told my car would be brought up in the next 30 minutes. I had all this luggage, and it was 40 minutes until we could start loading luggage. I have the ticket stub, but the part about texting was on the part of the ticket the valet kept. I do have the text message where I texted the number.

Can I really be held in contempt when this is Marriott’s fault?


Carolyn Answers …

How frustrating, and what an unfortunate ending to a amazing spring break trip for your children.

Contempt requires willful conduct, and it seems you were trying to do the right thing. You were courteous and called your ex. You will need as much proof that this was not willful as possible, so be sure to save the text message where you texted the valet for your hearing date. Show the text to your lawyer, and perhaps your lawyer will show the text to your ex’s lawyer as proof that you were trying to be not only on time, but ahead of time.

In my more than 20 years as a family law specialist, I have seen many contempt motions on failure to return children on time. A typical scenario occurs during winter months when the visitation return is hampered by a weather event, such as a snowstorm. Interstate travel with children is more likely to create these late return issues because of unforeseeable circumstances. I think it is unlikely that a court will hold you in willful contempt of the order, particularly if this is the only time you have been late returning the children. The court will likely look at whether you have been held in contempt before, as that could affect your personal credibility. For example, if this is the 15th time in a year this has happened, your story may not be so credible. But, if this is the only time in five years you have had any lateness issues, I think you are going to be OK.

When traveling with children interstate under a visitation order, plan, plan and plan. Build in as much time as needed to mitigate unforeseen circumstances.



Dear Carolyn,

Summer is coming. I am a newly divorced 50-year-old woman. I have read some of your materials on divorce recovery. I am 20 pounds overweight and I have a limited money for new clothes. I want to get back in the dating “pool,” as they call it. So, what do think I should do? I want to be healthy and happy. What steps do I need to take? I’d like to jump into the “pool” in a swimsuit.


Carolyn Answers …

You are right to have as goals: healthy and happy. These are great aspirations. Having been through this myself, including the weight loss problem, I know what you are going through. I have clients daily expressing your same issues. Everyone is different, but here are some points for you to consider.

Find one to three good girlfriends that have similar goals of healthy and happy. Make sure these are friends who will tell you like it is, not just humor you. You want honest opinions.

Be realistic, but lose weight. This is hard, and quite frankly, I think weight managemet is hard because most of us like to eat. I think weight management is first about what you eat and secondarily about exercise, in my personal experience. Different diets appeal to different people. I personally like low carbohydrate eating, and I would suggest you go to a registered dietician and learn about foods and the effect on your body. Many health care plans will allow you some amount of visits per year with a dietician if your primary doctor recommends one. I did this as part of my personal divorce recovery program, and I learned a lot. Don’t let dieting rule your life, but make healthy living and eating your way of life.

Find a new activity.

Don’t try too hard on this “dating pool.” Let it happen. As a divorce attorney, I have seen many immediate second divorces with rebounding.

You can become a role model for other women, so see yourself that way.

I hope you will honor me with your progress. Write me again in a couple of months and let me know what happened.


Send your questions on family law and divorce mattter to, or P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro 27427 or at Ask Carolyn’s comment section at Please do not put identifying information in your questions. “Like” Ask Carolyn on Facebook and follow on Instagram and Twitter at Ask_Carolyn.


Note that answers are intended to provide general legal information and are not specific legal advice for your situation. The column also uses hypothetical questions. A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need. Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by Ask Carolyn.