Dear Readers,

Valentine’s Day is around the corner. Ask Carolyn would love to hear your engagement stories, particularly if they were on Valentine’s Day. See some examples in the second Ask Carolyn of this week’s issue.



Dear Carolyn,

My daughter is in a devastating relationship, and she is just not connecting the dots regarding how bad the situation really is and what she needs to do to get out. My grandchild is in the situation, and I’d like to get this 7-year-old out before it is too late. I don’t even know what I mean by too late. I fear terrible things could happen to them both. There are guns and knives. This man has threatened to chop off her leg. She called me the other night when she and her partner were in the midst of a blood-curdling altercation. He had called her weird and stupid. He grabbed her car keys and wouldn’t let her leave. My grandchild was upstairs and hid in the closet until things cooled down. Why is my daughter not escaping the situation? What do I do to help my innocent little grandson?


Carolyn Answers …

You say you would like to get your grandson out. I personally think this is worth a shot. I hope you recorded the conversation with your daughter when she called and have a recording the blood-curdling conversation, as you call it. Such a recording would be legal and could be used as evidence in a court of law in North Carolina if both parties to the call were in North Carolina. Practically, disclosing to your daughter such a recording may not be good for trust issues in the mother-daughter relationship, and court is not the first answer.

Why don’t you see if she will let your grandson come to stay with you while she gets her life straightened out. At least he will be safe while she makes an attempt to escape. I hope she will make this attempt, but be prepared that she might not really make an escape. Escaping domestic violence is brave and heroic. She will need a lot of help. She has the right to leave, and the right to leave with her child. The Justice Center in either Greensboro or High Point can help her get a 50B order. She will be afraid, and that fear is justified. She possibly feels like she loves this abuser, and she has put the abuser’s needs above her own. But until she comes to grips with extxracating herself from the domestic violence situation, the child needs to be out.

So how do you get your grandchild out? Under the 2010 Census, 4.9 million children live in grandparent-headed environments. The number increased by almost 500,000 over the 2000 Census. The word has become “grandfamilies.”

The easiest way to get your grandson out is your daughter voluntarily acting in his best interest and letting him come to your home. I suggest you get a lawyer to provide paperwork, either giving you custody or at least guardianship. You will need some form of legal rights to get the child proper medical care and to enroll him in school (although try to leave him in his current school at least for the remainder of this year).

If you cannot get voluntarily residential custody, then you are better to file a lawsuit indicating that your grandchild’s parents are acting inconsistently with their constitutional rights to parent him. (Your question does not indicate whether the abuser is the father of your grandson, so there may be considerations outside this answer if the partner is not the biological father. My fear is that if you do not act, some school teacher or counselor may figure this out and call Social Services. That would be very bad for your grandchild in Guilord County. You are much better to move in the civil court on your own accord to seek custody of your grandchild.



Dear Carolyn,

I am thinking about proposing marriage to my beautiful girlfriend on Valentine’s Day. Any thoughts for romantic ideas? Ways to present the ring of the year to the girl of the year?


Carolyn Answers …

As it turns out, I got engaged to the marvelous Dwight Ensley on February 14, 2009 at Flemings. So I’m with you that this is a great day for a memorable engagement. Glad to hear you have the ring of the year, so let’s focus on how to present the ring.

Over the Christmas holidays, I was in the private jet terminal in Kansas City, Missouri. As my readers know, I’m a pilot as is my husband (yes, the engagement worked). As we were taxiing into the terminal, a helicopter was zooming overhead preparing to land. I entered the private terminal, and there was a crowd of what appeared to be family waiting to celebrate. They knew that the man was proposing to the woman in the helicopter as it flew both of them over the beautiful Dickinsonian lights of the Plaza in Kansas City. I thought, “Hmmmm, that was creative, but not so sure everyone else in the family should have known before the bride-to-be.”

Some ideas I particularly like are as follows: (1) Have an artist table side at a romantic spot drawing your bride-to-be and suddenly, the artist draws a box with an engagement ring.   (2) Bury the ring in champagne gummy bears. Hire a photographer to photograph finding the ring in the gummies. (3) Take a short trip in a hot air balloon. (4) Train your parrot to say: “Will you marry me?” (5) For the really bold, arrange to propose and with a plane to take you to a remote island. Perhaps for the wedding?


Send questions on family law and divorce to, or P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro 27427 or at Ask Carolyn’s comment section at


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.