Dear Carolyn:

With school about to start, there are “puddles” of anxiety all around me.  Did I mention I am going through a divorce and a custody battle? My estranged and I live in two different school districts and we cannot agree. The two children seem nervous and anxious. I often cannot sleep. Where will they go to school? We don’t have a formal order? What do I do about the anxiety?


Dear Anxious,

I sense the “puddles” of anxiety among many of my clients as well, so I am sure society has more stress and anxiety than a few years back. You have at least three distinct major stressors: divorce, school starting and the remnants of COVID-19.

While I am a lawyer and not a psychiatrist, my understanding of anxiety from a medical perspective is excessive nervousness, which may be accompanied by a panic attack or some compulsive behavior. You may feel eager to get something accomplished, or when added to depression, you may have a dark day. Consider seeking some counseling. Try yoga or some deep breathing. Understand that you will be okay.

The back-to-school issue is tough if the parents cannot agree, and you cannot get a court to rule because of timing. “Back to school” issues are not technically legal emergencies. Where the children went to school last year should control school choice, absent an agreement of the parents otherwise. However, with the divorce both parents may have moved school districts, or one child may be starting school for the first time. The traditional Guilford County unwritten rule has been, the child goes to the school district where the parent is (lives) on the first day of school.

You might discuss the legal custody issue with a local family law specialist of your choice.


Send your questions on family law and divorce matters to “Ask Carolyn…” at, or P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro, NC  27427.  Please do not put identifying information in your questions.  Note that the answers in “Ask Carolyn” are intended to provide general legal information, and the answers 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 in your individual case.  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…”  “Ask Carolyn…” will be a regular column, but not necessarily weekly