Author: Carolyn J. Woodruff

About Carolyn J. Woodruff

Here are my most recent posts

Ask Carolyn: May 24, 2018

Dear Readers, Two of you ask questions about summer vacation issues. The first answer today deals with multi-generational beach trips. The second question takes Garcon the French cat on a sailing vessel.     Dear Carolyn, I just turned in the dates for my summer vacation weeks with my sons (ages 6 and 9) to my ex. In even years I pick first by May 1. I get three total summer weeks split as two weeks and one week. Week isn’t defined, but that is another story for another day and a source of arguments. I picked Saturday to Saturday because of my beach rental for the one-week session. My two boys and I are camping in the Rockies the two-week time. Now for my questions regarding the one-week time, which I would like to do with my parents, the paternal grandparents of my children: We have had some problems before on these trips with my parents and the kids. When and where do we eat? How do we keep everything clean and sanitary? We don’t want sand in the cereal? They love their grandkids, and they are paying for the beach house. I am focused upon making this enjoyable for all concerned. Do you have some “Ask Carolyn” ground rules for these multi-generational beach trips?   Carolyn Answers … There are 18 summers in a child’s life. These...

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Ask Carolyn: April 26, 2018

Dear Readers, “Like” Ask Carolyn on Facebook and follow on Instagram and Twitter at “Ask_Carolyn.” Post questions for consideration for this column. I’ll also be giving these social media hints and clues to what the next exciting answers are from the Dancing Divorce Attorney.     Dear Carolyn, I want my husband to take a lie detector test. He’s cheating, and I know it. Will the lie detector test tell me what’s going on in his head, not to mention elsewhere? I need some peace of mind. Could I use the lie detector to get him kicked out of...

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Ask Carolyn … April 12, 2018

Dear Carolyn, My daughter is living with me after her separation. I am not charging her rent, but she wants her own apartment. Her ex is saying he does not have to pay for her apartment because she is living with me rent free. This is sort of a “chicken and an egg” situation. She cannot get the apartment without help from him, so she does not currently have the expense. She has been asked to fill out a statement of income and expenses. Her only income is disability from Social Security. So what gives? Does she have to live permanently with me, or can the court award her alimony to get her own place to live? I love my daughter, but she is 40, and it seems unfair that she would have to live with me forever for free just because her ex is ridiculous. She also has rented a storage facility to store the marital furniture until she can get an apartment. The ex says this fee for storage is hers and he wants nothing to do with the storage fee. Does he have to share in the storage? Otherwise, the property would have to be given away as I have no place to store it. She will need it if she gets an apartment. It is to protect “their” stuff after all.   Carolyn Answers …...

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Ask Carolyn … March 29, 2018

Dear Readers, This week’s Ask Carolyn addresses elder abuse, identity theft and a Medicare scam.     Dear Carolyn, I live here, and my elderly mother lives in another state close to my wicked sister. Mother gave the sister and me a copy of her will. In the will, my sister would receive a car if my mother owned one at the time of her death. My mother had to stop driving at 90 and my sister sold her car. I understand my sister told my mother that she owed her a car and now I find out that not only did the sister get all of the proceeds of the car but also picked mother’s pocket and got the mother to add $20,000 to buy the sister a car. My mother is now in an assisted living facility with dementia. Mother has a power of attorney appointing a local lawyer in that state as attorney in fact (person authorized to perform business for my mother), and so the lawyer now has the checking account. The sister also had mother sign paperwork I have recently learned transferring some oil and gas rights to my sister’s daughter. I have a daughter too, and I cannot imagine my mother intentionally treating one grandchild better than another. Also, I don’t believe that my mother owned the oil and gas rights; I think...

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Ask Carolyn … March 15, 2018

Dear Readers, Today’s Ask Carolyn discusses reader’s questions regarding irritable children and video game violence watched by teens.   Dear Carolyn, I think I am a good parent, but my 6-year-old is trying my patience. He is a rather irritable child, particularly if you ask him to do something he does not want to do when he is using his computer. He throws a tantrum. My son is fussy, edgy and unhappy most mornings. He throws his shoes at the dog. I tell him to stop and this just makes him angrier. I am going through a divorce from his father, but this seems to have started before the divorce. He has always been a fussy, irritable child. At the last parent-teacher conference, my son’s teacher reported that he was very irritable at school and prone to tantrums. Now his father reports that he is fine at “his house.” I don’t believe this. His father takes his computer away and gives him “timeouts.” I think this is hurting my son’s self-esteem and causing more outbreaks of tantrums at my house. We have a custody mediation coming up. What do I do?   Carolyn Answers … There are several potential causes of your frustration, and unfortunately, these causes may be intertwined. The following four potential causes would be on my short list: Inconsistent parenting styles between the two parents’ homes,...

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Ask Carolyn … March 1, 2018

Dear Readers, Today’s Ask Carolyn deals with forgiveness and school violence.   Dear Carolyn, I am so angry that my anger is getting in the way of my life. My husband had an affair and we are separated. We have been married 20 years. When I uncovered who the woman was, the situation added insult to injury. The woman has broken up many marriages. I am not sleeping at night. I thought my husband was a good man from a good home, but I have recently heard that his father was a serial philander and his mother just swept it under the rug. I am at the point I want to “wash that man right out of my hair,” as the Broadway song goes. But how do I forgive this? I know I need to forgive, but how? I am so very, very hurt. He has not acknowledged the wrongful adultery, and that makes this even harder. Why can’t he at least acknowledge the wrong and ask for forgiveness? I feel that would make it easier.   Carolyn Answers … Forgiveness is one of those interesting words in the English language. It is a noun, and it can either refer to the process of forgiving or the process of being forgiven. Perhaps the two concepts are more linked than one might think. Forgiveness is a spiritual word, but it...

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Ask Carolyn … Feb. 15, 2018

Dear Readers, Valentine’s Day was yesterday, and some of you will celebrate the holiday this weekend. Several readers share sorrow-filled “takes” on the day. Perhaps you might take a moment to listen to “My Funny Valentine,” a jazz standard sung by both Frank Sinatra and a theatrical version by Ella Fitzgerald. “You’re my funny valentine, Sweet comic valentine … Each day is Valentine’s Day.” For some readers, I think they are glad each day is not Valentine’s Day. For these folks, Valentine’s is stressful.     Dear Carolyn, My spouse died on Valentine’s Day last year, and I am really dreading Feb. 14, 2018, as the anniversary of his death. I have so many vivid memories of the good times, but when I think of his tragic death, I feel like I am having a heart attack. My chest gets tight and I can hardly breathe. I tried a few sessions of counseling and that did not work. How do I get over this tremendous sense of loss on Valentine’s Day? Is there something wrong with me? I went to the doctor once thinking I had a heart attack. The medical tests did not show a heart attack. What do I do? I am totally stressed out and sick over Valentine’s Day.   Carolyn Answers … Valentine’s Day, like other holidays, can be especially difficult. Perhaps Valentine’s Day is...

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Ask Carolyn … Feb. 1, 2018

Dear Readers, This week I am addressing alienation of affection and problems with in-laws in a divorce. Enjoy.     Dear Carolyn, My husband moved out of the marital residence last week. I got his phone records, and he has been calling this woman on a regular basis. I am suspicious that she is the reason he moved out. These calls have been going on for at least six months. I have figured out who this woman is. Can I sue her? She is the home wrecker, and I feel quite confident of my conclusion. I want her to pay me.   Carolyn Answers … You possibly have a claim, thanks to a recent case decided by the North Carolina Court of Appeals. The claim you may have against the woman would be alienation of affection. To have a criminal conversation case, you need some circumstantial evidence of sex between your husband and the woman before your husband moved out. At least in your fact pattern, you don’t have this. You might look further into credit card bills to see if you see any suspicious hotel charge. The elements of alienation of affection are as follows: (1) You had a genuine marital relationship with love and affection at the time of your spouse’s affair. In other words, the marriage was peaceful and intact, and this hurdle is not that...

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Ask Carolyn … Jan. 11, 2018

Dear Readers, Tax reform is here. There are many, many changes in the tax laws that affect family law matters. You need to be informed. This weeks’ Ask Carolyn begins the discussion of the child tax credit worth $2,000 per child, elementary and secondary school tuition under 529 plans and the new alimony law. I welcome questions from you concerning the new tax act.   Dear Carolyn, I have just been reading in the newspaper about the new tax laws. I got out my court order for child support from 2015, and the child support order was a consent order with the mother of my child. I have one child. I make $175,000 a year approximately. The 2015 consent order provides that the mother receives the dependency exemption for the child. It further says that I have to sign Form 8332 each year transferring the dependency exemption to her. We have 50/50 custody. The consent court order doesn’t say anything about a child tax credit. I have two questions. Should I seek modification? Who gets the child tax credit under the new law? My child is age 15.   Carolyn Answers … While it is going to take some time for us to sort out the effects of this new child tax credit under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), in studying the new law here are my...

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Ask Carolyn … Jan. 4, 2018

Ask Carolyn…     Dear Readers, This week’s Ask Carolyn deals with a New Year’s surprise in South Beach Miami and my eight steps to keep a New Year’s resolution.     Dear Carolyn, I heard a rumor last week, and the rumor is true. The rumor I heard is that my estranged husband was going to South Beach with my best friend’s daughter, a young hot blonde. It is New Year’s Eve. I’m sitting at home, saving money. And I turned on my television to see what others were doing on New Year’s. There is my ex on a red carpet on Ocean Drive in South Beach Miami. The plaything is the age of his daughter, and she is glued to him in a hot pink jumpsuit and what looks like four-inch heels going down a red carpet runway in South Beach. He says he is having money troubles and cut his voluntary support by $2,500 this month. Now I know why, and I know what he did with my $2,500. I did DVR this television “scene.” There appears there was a red carpet leading to the South Beach party, and that is where the TV cameras were. Can I use my video clip? I am furious. Plus, I want my $2,500.   Carolyn Answers … Do not dwell on what your ex is doing, but getting a...

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Ask Carolyn … Dec. 21, 2017

Ask Carolyn…     Dear Readers, This week’s Ask Carolyn deals with (1) a keepsake Faberge-type ornament that was mysteriously broken (a “cat tail”), and (2) Holiday Stress Syndrome. Happy holidays to all you from Ask Carolyn.     Dear Carolyn, I wrote to you Thanksgiving. I have another problem with Angel my cat. Remember, my husband calls the cat PITA, for Pain-in-the-A**. Well, here’s what Angel did, I think. My husband has a Christmas ornament made out of a goose eggshell. His grandmother made this Faberge-type ornament in the 1970s, so this ornament he inherited is almost 50-years-old. We placed the ornament on our tree as is our custom. When no one was watching, I think PITA climbed the tree and knocked off the goose egg ornament breaking it in hundreds of pieces. I have seen PITA climb the tree several times, so I feel sure this is how the ornament got broken. I do not know how to tell my husband about the ornament. He is going to be furious, I fear. He will start an investigation into what happened inquiring of the children and me, and of course PITA. This inquisition will make the Mueller investigation seem benign. What should I do? How do I tell my husband that this prized ornament is shattered?   Carolyn Answers … Oh, boy. I doubt you can find a...

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Ask Carolyn … Dec. 7, 2017

Ask Carolyn…     Dear Readers, This week Ask Carolyn readers asked about child support arrearages and a deadbeat dad; and holiday alcohol problems and blacking out.     Dear Carolyn, My ex-husband and I had our divorce finalized in 2014. At the time we had two minor children. My daughter who was 16 at the time lived with her dad, and my son who was 14 lived with me. We had joint custody. However, he was ordered to pay child support to me, as well as carry insurance on both children. He was also required to pay 80/20 on any bills that were not covered my insurance. We were to provide our current phone numbers and address to the other party until the children graduated from high school. Since 2014, my ex has not had one visit with our son. I have called to ask him to get him, and he said no. I saw our daughter just about every day. He has not had insurance on our son since the order, and I was forced to put him on Medicaid. Our daughter graduated in 2016 and our son will graduate this year, and outside of child support he does nothing for him. I know I can take him to court because he is in contempt, but I cannot afford it. Will the Department of Health & Human...

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Ask Carolyn … Nov. 23, 2017

Dear Readers, This week’s Ask Carolyn deals with the story of stone soup and provides more information for someone who has written Ask Carolyn several times.     Dear Carolyn, I love my husband, but he is making an annoying comment that is upsetting our family at this holiday of Thanksgiving. We have a cat. My children and I love the cat. My husband calls the cat PITA, for Pain-in-the-a**. The cat’s name is officially Angel. Yesterday, he threatened to deep-fry the cat for Thanksgiving. While he was joking, this caused one of the children to cry. He has never hurt the cat, and I do not believe he will. How do I stop my husband from such strange comments? How do I teach my children sharing for Thanksgiving? Do you have any suggestions?   Carolyn Answers … Hmmm. You should talk to your husband privately about making jokes about Angel. He has to stop. These statements are inappropriate. Point out to him how he is upsetting your children when he makes threats to Angel the cat, however unintentional the threats are. I would warn you that animal cruelty is a sign to worry about domestic violence. I am assuming your husband just has a smart mouth and he is joking in an inappropriate way. Watch for any indications of abuse. You ask about sharing, and the sharing lesson...

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Ask Carolyn … Nov. 9, 2017

Dear Readers, This week’s Ask Carolyn deals with phased-in custody of young children and child abuse.  There are comments on the murder of baby Toni Gwynn.  To write me, see contact information at the end of the column.     Dear Carolyn, I am both a new dad and newly separated.  My little baby girl is only nine months old.  It tears my heart out that I’m not with her every day, but it is impossible for me to live with her mother.  I would like 50-50 custody. I don’t have much experience with young children, and if I can be frank, babies scare me just a bit.  I would like a visitation plan that phases into a 50-50 schedule when my daughter starts to attend kindergarten.  My estranged wife is saying that this is not possible, and she says her attorney says that we have to base custody on current circumstances.  That means more than one trial. My estranged does not think I closely supervise the infant enough.  I just want what is best for my daughter.  What do you think?   Carolyn Answers … First, I applaud you for several things. You are exercising common sense in assessing the best interests of your minor daughter.  It is commendable that you are listening to the concerns of the other parent.  It is also considerate of you to consider...

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Ask Carolyn … Oct. 26, 2017

Dear Readers, Today’s Ask Carolyn addresses the third letter from a perplexed soul in the legal system, and I call on all the attorneys involved to get to the bottom of the writer’s problems. He is a faithful reader of Rhino Times and he deserves an end to his legal mess.   Dear Carolyn, Went to court today and was there four hours. My ex-wife did not show up. Her attorney came three hours late. My attorney Norman Smith and her attorney Lee Cecil talked to the judge, and Mr. Smith rushed out the door and told me to come back Nov. 6 at 10 a.m. I tried to ask about my quitclaim deed to my home, but he was in too much in a hurry to get out of there. How can I get her to sign the quitclaim? I gave Mr. Smith a copy of the Deed. Mr. Smith said my wife’s attorney was going to try to make her get a loan on her teacher retirement and pay the $15,000 she owes me. I am still confused and frustrated about the whole thing. I can sell my land for $50,000 if she would only sign the quitclaim deed. Carolyn Answers … The court system can be frustrating, and the court system frequently takes great patience. Also, attorneys often have tight time schedules, and if Mr. Smith...

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Ask Carolyn … Oct. 12, 2017

Dear Readers, Today’s Ask Carolyn addresses the third letter from a perplexed soul in the legal system, and I call on all the attorneys involved to get to the bottom of the writer’s problems. He is a faithful reader of Rhino Times and he deserves an end to his legal mess.   Dear Carolyn, Went to court today and was there four hours. My ex-wife did not show up. Her attorney came three hours late. My attorney Norman Smith and her attorney Lee Cecil talked to the judge, and Mr. Smith rushed out the door and told me to come back Nov. 6 at 10 a.m. I tried to ask about my quitclaim deed to my home, but he was in too much in a hurry to get out of there. How can I get her to sign the quitclaim? I gave Mr. Smith a copy of the Deed. Mr. Smith said my wife’s attorney was going to try to make her get a loan on her teacher retirement and pay the $15,000 she owes me. I am still confused and frustrated about the whole thing. I can sell my land for $50,000 if she would only sign the quitclaim deed. Carolyn Answers … The court system can be frustrating, and the court system frequently takes great patience. Also, attorneys often have tight time schedules, and if Mr. Smith...

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Ask Carolyn … Sept. 28, 2017

Ask Carolyn…     Dear Carolyn, I think I am about to be sued for alienation of affection. While I am not really sure exactly what this is, I am sure that I am not really doing this. Yes, I do have a paramour who is married. However, it is very clear to her and to me that the relationship with her husband was over when we started our affair. How can I possibly be sued when she had no marriage to speak of? I also heard a rumor that maybe alienation of affection is against the United States Constitution. Is there any movement for alienation of affection to be declared unconstitutional? Any help you can give me would ease my pain and my nervousness.   Carolyn Answers … Alienation of affection is a tort. A tort is a civil action stemming from an injury to another person. An example of a tort is an automobile accident. The person committing the tort of an automobile accident had no right to run into the injured party’s automobile. The person committing the automobile tort has to pay to fix the other person’s automobile. Compare the automobile accident tort to the tort of alienation of affection, which is essentially rear-ending someone else’s marriage and creating an injury to the marriage. The person rear-ending the marriage, creating the damage of a dissolution of...

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Ask Carolyn … Sept. 14, 2017

Ask Carolyn…       Dear Readers, This week Ask Carolyn further answers two male readers’ questions regarding alimony and ex-wife harassment. One of the letter writers has written Ask Carolyn again with some more specifics. See the August 31 Ask Carolyn for the original questions.     Dear Carolyn, This is the follow-up information you requested regarding my August 31 question concerning the equitable distribution (ED) settlement in my divorce. To recap, we’re trying to sell the house, which is underwater. My ex’s attorneys want $2,000 a month in alimony and my ex earns $40,000 per year. I want to find out if the courts will grant her alimony and attorney’s fees (now over $40,000), and if I can declare bankruptcy if they do and get it removed. Here is the additional information. My monthly take home after taxes and a small contribution to my 401K ($266.24) is $5,354 a month.  Revolving short term (credit card debt) is approximately $1,425 per month (these are minimum only payments with a 20 to 30 year payoff period).  This leaves me approximately $3,900 per month. Currently, the mortgages are $2,200 per month, with miscellaneous expenses – home insurance, real estate taxes, car insurance, repairs (no car payment, but the car has 175,000 miles), utilities, food, dry cleaning, etc. – running approximately another $2,200 per month.  This does not include dining out,...

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Ask Carolyn…8/31/17

Ask Carolyn … Straight Talk for the Dancing Divorce Attorney Carolyn Woodruff Ask Carolyn… Dear Readers, This week Ask Carolyn answers two male readers’ questions regarding alimony and ex-wife harassment. These questions will also be addressed in future versions of Ask Carolyn also because of the complexity of the questions. Stay tuned. Dear Carolyn, After over a year of frustration and $12,000, I terminated my attorney.  My wife moved out of the marital residence 19 months ago, while I was out of state on a business trip. There was no cheating on either side. I was able to get the divorce and a settlement on the equitable distribution (ED) through the courts.  Currently, I am still living in the home (I don’t want to).   The house will be under water by approximately $15,000 when it sells.  The ED calls for a 50/50 split on the home, whether there is a profit or loss, and it stipulates no alimony request can be presented to the courts until the home is sold. The large amount of debt was split 50/50 in the ED, but the ex’s share of it is coming out of her half of my retirement account from work. The ex’s attorneys are still bucking for a monthly alimony of almost $2,000, and her attorney fees are now more than $40k and are being paid by her parents.  She is employed and makes approximately $40,000 per year.  With the...

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Ask Carolyn…8/17/17

Ask Carolyn… Dear Readers, Today’s Ask Carolyn is a three-part response to a lengthy letter from “Desperately Seeking, A Concerned Mother and Grandmother.” I have broken the letter down into three parts, as I see at least three points in time where more intervention was needed. What I do not want to have to write is Part IV, where someone is dead. Escalating domestic abuse and children do not mix. Part I of Concerned Grandmother: First Time Daughter Moves Out (Pregnant) Dear Carolyn, My daughter dated the father of her child for two years (2014-2016) and during this time they lived together.  Due to emotional abuse, she left him and came back home when she was seven months pregnant.  She didn’t remove all of her belongings because her intentions (I believe) were to go back once the baby was born.  Her main goal at the time was to not be so stressed. Should she go back when the baby is born? Carolyn Answers … She should get the remainder of her belongings and run. Your daughter should get help for herself and learn why she finds it acceptable to allow the abuse. She should start counseling immediately with a counselor, or an agency such as Family Service of the Piedmont. Remember, the baby is an innocent party and does not need to be exposed. Part II of Concerned Grandmother:...

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Ask Carolyn … July 20, 2017

Ask Carolyn…   Dear Readers, Today’s first Ask Carolyn is on disability and just wants what the court awarded. The second is from The Sound of the Beep involving an inspector who filed a property lien. Fifteen Rhino readers seek a solution!     Dear Carolyn, I got a settlement from my ex-wife in Superior Court in January 2017 after she ran away with $80,000 of our money. I was awarded $15,000, and it was to be paid to me in May of this year. My ex-wife’s attorney was disbarred, and she now has a new attorney. My attorney that helped me with my settlement is dragging his feet after almost two years and numerous visits to his office. I still can’t get my settlement. Should I send my ex-wife a bill? She has the money in her retirement account. I can’t afford another attorney at $225 an hour. My income is about $1,000 a month Social Security disability check, and I have a house payment of $800 a month plus all the other bills that go with living day by day. What is my course of action on the pending issue? Can you help me?   Carolyn Answers … I am a little perplexed by the facts of your letter stating Superior Court. Property divisions in divorce are handled in District Court. Since the clerk of Superior Court...

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Ask Carolyn … July 6, 2017

Ask Carolyn…   Dear Readers, Today’s first Ask Carolyn concerns disturbed teens, a growing problem, with a brief discussion of the Carter conviction of involuntary manslaughter for text messages. The second concerns what happens to that engagement ring if the wedding is called off.     Dear Carolyn, I am concerned about my 15-year-old daughter and her relationship with one other teen who is 16 and has access to a car to drive. My daughter lives primarily with her mother, my ex-wife, and visits with me. It seems there is more and more distance between my daughter and me, particularly when I try to talk to her about this other teen, who I consider a bad influence. I’ll call my daughter, Susie—but this is not her real name. Susie has several good friends, but I am skeptical of the teen who can drive, I’ll call Erica. I have seen some texts (on my daughter’s phone) from Erica suggesting fast cars, sketchy drugs and laughing about teen suicide. One text suggests that Susie and Erica are swapping medications. Susie is on an anti-depressant. There is concern about bipolar disorder with Susie. I would prefer that Susie never be alone with Erica, but even if she and Erica are not alone, there is all the social media Susie’s mother allows without supervision. What should I do?   Carolyn Answers … I...

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Ask Carolyn … June 22, 2017

Dear Readers, Today’s first Ask Carolyn concerns a divorce judgment that was set aside after one of the parties to the divorce had remarried. Yikes. The second question continues the discussion of revenge porn.     Dear Carolyn, My girlfriend thought she was divorced. I saw the divorce judgment myself. We got married a month ago and now she is telling me that she wasn’t divorced and that the judge set aside the divorce. How can this be? Am I a bigamist? Is she a bigamist?   Carolyn Answers … Bigamy is the crime of marrying one person while you know you are married to someone else, and bigamy is a felony in North Carolina. I do not think your “spouse” would be prosecuted and convicted of bigamy in North Carolina because you both thought you were marrying a single person – even though you apparently were not. You saw and could produce a copy of what on its face looks like a valid divorce judgment. So how can it be that your girlfriend thought she was divorced and then the judge reversed the divorce? While I believe that this happens infrequently in North Carolina, divorce judgments are occasionally reversed. There are two main reasons. The first is that the married couple (or one of them) lies in the divorce complaint by stating that they have been living separate...

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Ask Carolyn … June 8, 2017

Dear Carolyn, How can someone defend themselves against alimony? To make a long story short, a husband and wife were in a marriage way too long.  The husband stayed because of the children, but the marriage went from bad to worse. The wife worked until the children were born then stayed at home, working part time making a good salary and then working full time about five years ago. The husbandmakes a substantially higher salary of around $100,000, while the wife makes about $40,000. The husband was willing to take on the majority of the marital debt of around $60,000. He also signed over half of his 401(k) and let his wife have all the marital assets inside the home. The wife is now saying that her husband abused her and that she is unable to work due to illness. (Both are untrue). The wife abandoned the marital bedroom then abandoned the marriage and hasn’t paid any of the couple’s debt. She has also turned their three adult children against their father. With all the other claims and divorce finally behind him, the husband only has alimony hovering over his head. He wants to do the right thing, but paying the majority of the debt will take at least 25 years, and they also have two mortgages on their home.  Even though he has the earning capacity, there is...

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Ask Carolyn … May 25, 2017

Dear Readers, Today’s first Ask Carolyn addresses aging pet owners who must give up a pet. Just a reminder – as the summer heats up, do not leave pets or children in automobiles.   Dear Carolyn, My mother is now 90, has beginning dementia and is moving into a senior care facility. She has a 9-year-old cat named Angel. She is worried about Angel, but she cannot take a cat with her to the senior retirement community. She wants me to take Angel. I travel a lot in my lifestyle, but I want Angel to be safe and comfortable. Plus, as a son, I want to make sure my mother doesn’t worry about Angel. What are your thoughts?   Carolyn Answers … Pets are bonded family members. Your mother is right to be concerned about her family member Angel. Pets provide comfort and a reason to get up in the morning. There are lots of opportunities and ways for re-adoption of pets. Here are some suggestions. Find a new owner for your pet: Discuss Angel with your entire extended family. There likely is a solution among your family. If not, then ask the veterinarian, who may kinow someone looking for a pet. Someone told me last week that she had placed a pet adoption through Craig’s List. The vet should at least know where there is a “no kill...

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Ask Carolyn … May 11, 2017

Dear Readers, The week I address dreading Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who have a great situation, but realize there are those around you for which Mother’s Day may be most stressful.   Dear Carolyn, Is it un-American to dread Mother’s Day? I lost my only child, plus I do not get along with my mother. My husband’s mother lives in Greensboro. My mother lives in Asheboro. We go to church, so whose mother do we take to Sunday lunch? The mothers don’t like each other, so taking them together is not an option.   Carolyn Answers … Whew! What a dysfunctional situation. Sounds like a good time for a beach trip. Seriously, holidays highlight and exacerbate family problems. Holidays can be stressful when there is family conflict. Given your loss of your only child, Mother’s Day can be a day that opens old wounds. Some churches I have been to recognize mothers on Mother’s Day, and in your case, that may be salt in your wounds. I overall think churches should be more sensitive that Mother’s Day may be a day of reflection over a loss, rather than a celebration for some in the congregation, and I do not mean to be harsh. I would consider avoiding a situation that would send you into the doldrums. Now, the two mothers. You do not say...

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Ask Carolyn … April 27, 2017

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...

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Ask Carolyn … April 13, 2017

Dear Readers, Please “Like” Ask Carolyn on Facebook and follow on Instagram and Twitter at “Ask_Carolyn.” Post questions for consideration for this column. I’ll also be giving these social media hints and clues to what the next exciting answers are from the Dancing Divorce Attorney. Today’s first Ask Carolyn addresses the sobering issue of parental alienation in child custody with a brand new case from the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Really, mousetraps as a solution in Parental Alienation Syndrome? Readers, please comment on the appropriateness of therapy with mousetraps.     Dear Carolyn, I am a father and I haven’t visited with my son in six months. I want visitation, but his mother is poisoning my son’s mind against me. I have a court order and my attorney is going for contempt. I heard about Parental Alienation Syndrome. What is this?   Carolyn Answers … Parental Alienation Syndrome is devastating to the development of an emotionally healthy child. The intent of the alienating parent is the destruction of the present and future relationship of a child with the other parent. Recently, the North Carolina Court of Appeals dealt with an extreme situation of Parental Alienation Syndrome in McLean v. King (2017), a case originating in Caldwell County. The child was born in 2003 and primarily lived with the mother. It appears to me from the facts that the...

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Ask Carolyn … March 30, 2017

Dear Readers, This week’s Ask Carolyn concerns (1) hero instinct and (2) dealing with angry spouses.     Dear Carolyn, I was in the most amazing relationship for four months and then something just happened. I thought I had finally found the man of my dreams. We were smitten and in love. We talked every night after work. He had lunch delivered to me at work. I had not dated after my divorce for over six years. Then I met this guy who I thought was the love of my life. Now he is not calling, and he is mostly ignoring my texts. Should I keep trying? How could he love me one minute and now ignore me? I still feel we are right for each other. Any ideas?   Carolyn Answers … These matters of the heart are difficult to analyze, and I have seen thousands of break-ups “up close” as a divorce attorney. It is good that you have waited a substantial period of time after your last divorce to consider a new serious relationship. I suggest that you wait a year for every five years you were married to give yourself time to heal and grieve the loss of a spouse. It takes two to tango. But what makes that tango work? In the long run, it is not the primal urges of the sparks of...

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Ask Carolyn … March 16, 2017

Dear Readers, Today’s Ask Carolyn tackle two cutting edge issues – FaceTiming with toddlers and pet custody in divorce. I would like to hear your comments on either topic.   Dear Carolyn, My two little grandsons – Adam and Johnny – live in Colorado. They are 3 and 1. My daughter and son-in-law are willing to let them FaceTime with my husband and me. His mom said that Adam had requested FaceTime with us on the way to day care that morning. So we set it up for 7 p.m. Denver time. Well, we tried it and it was chaos. The 3-year-old, Adam, wanted to run around the room and not cooperate. Baby Johnny grinned and smiled sweetly. Then the minute the Facetime was over, Adam demanded that his mother call me back. She called immediately back and we did a second very short FaceTime. I got a good night kiss that was worth all the confusion. Given the distance, I want to make the most of FaceTime with Adam and Johnny. The whole thing lasted 30 minutes. Any suggestions?   Carolyn Answers … You ask a tough question, but one worthwhile in spending effort to resolve. Forty-three percent of grandparents live more than 200 miles from their grandchildren, making Skype and FaceTime an attractive tool for contact. These guidelines also will work for a parent who lives away...

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Ask Carolyn … March 2, 2017

Dear Readers, In the Feb. 6, 2017 Ask Carolyn, I answered a question regarding negativity. The father in the question was flitting around from job to job. One reader commented that I should consider whether the father had mental illness that impacted his ability to stay with a job. Many thanks to this reader for his valuable insight. Statistically, one in two of us have some level of mental illness at some point in our lives – even if it is the divorce crazies in this the divorce age. The three big culprits of job interruption are depression, anxiety and addiction (alcohol or drugs). The stigma of mental illness and our healthcare system generally seem to prevent a person from getting or staying with the health care they need. I welcome further comments from other readers with insights or comments on this topic.     Dear Carolyn, I have just recently separated. My ex is threatening this, that and the other as an emergency. “If you don’t do this, I’m going to file for a restraining order.” “If you don’t do xyz, I’ll file a motion.” “I can have you put in jail if I want.” Most recently, he demanded I sign a private school enrollment agreement making me responsible for half the tuition. Our son has been at a private school since kindergarten and he is thriving there....

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Ask Carolyn … Feb. 16, 2017

Dear Readers, Today’s Ask Carolyn deals with two epidemics: Negativity and cutting among teens. I look forward, as always, to your letters and comments.     Dear Carolyn, My son-in-law flits around from job to job. He complains about every employer. The problem is that his attitude impacts his ability to support my grandchildren. He is a negative person. My daughter works and provides. She keeps a steady job and has been with her employer at least nine years. She is positive, but I quite frankly don’t know how she stands him. I’d like to give my daughter information on how to handle his negativity. What do you say, Carolyn?   Carolyn Answers … Giving advice to someone who is not seeking change probably doesn’t work. But here goes regarding healing negative thinking, which can be both a problem in families and a workplace problem. I define negative thinking as a pattern of negative thoughts about yourself your surroundings or others around you. I find that employees who are unhappy with one work place go on to be unhappy with the new work place. The same can be true of relationships, and one must look within to see if that is where the real problem is. Given your fact pattern, I would suspect that your son-in-law will find no employer he likes. The first thing I would suggest to...

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Ask Carolyn … Feb. 2, 2017

Dear Carolyn, Johnny is 13 and wants to live with his father. His father has visited with him on weekends but has done little else with Johnny for the last 10 years. I have exercised sole custody. Johnny’s father has essentially ignored him, but now his father has re-married and has taken a new interest in Johnny. He bought him a dog. He provides whatever screens Johnny wants. He has even promised him a car when he is 16. Johnny wants to live with his father next school year. What should I do? Do I need to spend money on a lawyer? Carolyn Answers … Child custody cases involving teens are complicated. As the former Chief Judge Bruce Morton of Guilford County District Court used to say: “Teens are thousand pound gorillas. And you know where thousand pound gorillas sit? They sit where they want to sit.” Under the law, a judge has to give great weight to the testimony of a teen about where the teen wants to live. There is no age under North Carolina law that a minor (under 18) has an absolute say-so on living arrangements between mom and dad. Teens are thousand pound gorillas in custody cases all too often. They break the emotional hearts of their primary caretaker during elementary and middle school all too often. Teens resonate with the parent who ignored...

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Ask Carolyn … Jan. 19, 2017

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...

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Ask Carolyn … Jan. 5, 2017

Dear Readers, Happy new year 2017, from Ask Carolyn. My new year’s challenge to each of my readers: Try something in 2017 you have never tried before. Take a risk. Evaluate your 2016. What did you accomplish? Did you accomplish goals you set a year ago? What will your answer to these questions be on Jan. 1, 2018 – last year is gone, but this is a whole new year for your choices. As for me, I am pleased to begin writing in year four for the Rhino Times. The year 2016 was a blessed one for me, with the birth of a second grandson, finishing my third book, Ask Carolyn Two, finishing my instrument rating as an airplane private pilot and managing Woodruff Family Law Group for its best year. What I’m up to in 2017 is a secret, but I have a plan. Do you? Make your plan now? Don’t be your own limitation. You can do it!     Dear Carolyn, During Christmas, I found out something that is devastating. My husband had an affair, which he promises he has broken off. I am willing to forgive him and start the new year together afresh. This is the problem, and I need your advice. My husband has also contracted a sexually transmitted disease from this woman. He broke up with her when he had symptoms, and...

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Ask Carolyn … Dec. 22, 2016

Dear Readers, Happy holidays from Ask Carolyn. This week are the hot topics of immigration and the holiday challenges with step-children. Enjoy as you enjoy your families in whatever form they may take this holiday season.     Dear Carolyn, There’s a lot in the news about immigration, but I have my own set of problems. My son met this woman overseas. Well, the relationship matured and my son wanted to marry this girl and bring her to the United States. The bride-to-be is from China. My husband and I along with our son signed a Form I-864 Affidavit of Support for the bride-to-be. Now trouble is in the water and it looks like there will be a divorce. She became a permanent United States resident as a result of our actions and the wedding. My son and the bride bought a small business with some money that her family provided. If my son divorces his Chinese bride, what are we in for?   Carolyn Answers … A Form I-864 Affidavit of Support is a far-reaching document. In signing it, you signed a legally enforceable contract with the sponsored immigrant, and moreover – the contract under Form I-864 does not terminate on divorce. That agreement also requires you to submit yourself to the jurisdiction of any federal or state court in which a civil proceeding to enforce the support...

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Ask Carolyn … Dec. 8, 2016

Dear Carolyn, I always end up dreading the Christmas holidays. I’d just like to enjoy my family, particularly the children, but there is this one relative (my mother) who tries to manipulate the situations and create divisive undertones. This person gossips within the family and says negative things about me to the others, regardless of the truth. The “grandmother” likes to be the one everyone likes, but wants most everyone else to dislike each other. She likes to create favorites. For example, she might tell my daughter (her granddaughter) that she is her favorite grandchild, then “bad-mouth” my daughter to the other granddaughter (my sister’s daughter). And then, to boot, she tells my sister’s daughter that she is the favorite granddaughter. I always fear what negative statements are just going to “pop up.” My mother judges everyone about everything. She isn’t interested in my point of view on anything, only hers. Do you have any hints for dealing with this, particularly at Christmas lunch?   Carolyn Answers … Your situation is not uncommon. Your mother has what I call “toxic person syndrome.” Toxic people defy any logical explanation and seem to relish dealing with confusion and chaos. The toxic person strives in stress and complexity. There is quite a bit written on toxic people, particularly the rather well known book How Emotionally Intelligent People Handle Toxic People, by Dr....

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Ask Carolyn … Nov. 24, 2016

Dear Readers, Happy Thanksgiving. A day of gratitude. So many children will be between Mom’s house and Dad’s house over this holiday. Perhaps special activities geared to this unique holiday would be appropriate. Enjoy.     Dear Carolyn, I am a dad and this is not my year to have the entire Thanksgiving with my two children, ages 9 and 11. I get to have dinner with them on Thanksgiving Day, and their mother has the remainder of the time. We alternate years like this. I want to make the time special for them. Business travel has me busy. Any ideas?   Carolyn Answers … Yes, I have some ideas. First, turn off the television and don’t eat in front of the television. Focus on a family meal around a table. The possibilities for creativity are endless. Possibly have a fun activity that each family member can take home with them for the remainder of the weekend. While there are a multitude of ideas, I suggest a gratitude journal for each person who will be around your table. Go to a book store and pick up a cute, seasonal notebook/journal for each individual. Pre-label the journal as Gratitude Journal for Johnny (last name), Nov. 24, 2016. Start the meal with having everyone write a thought of gratitude in the journal and reading the thought to the others at the...

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Ask Carolyn … Nov. 10, 2016

Dear Readers, Internet addiction is here and is real. I would like to hear from you on this topic. Do you know that a Kaiser Family Foundation study showed that two-thirds of parents have no rules on internet use, particularly internet use unrelated to homework and research? Today’s second Ask Carolyn continues a discussion of this topic.     Dear Carolyn, Do I really need to send my children to visitation with their father? I mean, do I have to force them to go? They really don’t want to go? Shouldn’t the children be given a say in the situation? Their father is a doctor and he thinks it is his way or the highway. All he wants to do in his spare time is fish, so what does my 12-year-old daughter, who hates worms, have to do when she is with her father? Fish, of course. My 10-year-old son is a little better with the worms, but even he would rather do some other activities some time. When we negotiated our custody agreement, we agreed that the child’s wishes would be considered, but not controlling. The agreement was put in a court order. The court order also says I have to make reasonable effort to give the father access and promote a feeling of affection. I hate this man, which is why I divorced him. This father is...

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