Dear Readers,

This week Ask Carolyn explains why you shouldn’t lie about the date of separation to obtain a divorce. And, what you should do if your divorce is a toxic waste dump.


Dear Carolyn,

I had agreed todivorce in October 2016, butnow my ex sued me in June 2018 stating that the divorce is a fraud and that she never knew about divorce. I have solid evidenceto prove that it was her signature (signature expert report), and I have a police report and text messages to prove that she did agree ondivorce and that she knew about it. The problem in that final agreed divorce decree was it was not attested and not served through a constable or server, but granted and stamped by the courtafter 61 days as it was agreed. Now she is denying text and handwritingexperts opinion and created tenfamily members and friends stating under oath on affidavits that she is an honestperson, we were married, andthat I tricked her.  My question is: Does the judge listen to my ex crying and presenting liar affiants?


Carolyn answers:

Most judges do not listen to crying!

I would likemore information. Specifically, I need to know if your ex says the date of separation was less than one year from the filing of the divorce. I think your ex is way too late to challenge on any of the service issues, in all likelihood.

The biggest reason that divorces get set aside is lying about the date of separation and saying falsely that the date of separation is more than a year preceding the filing of the complaint of divorce with the court.Service issues don’t get so much attention, particularly years after the fact.

I am also curious why the ex cares. Surely, sheknew way before June 2018 that you had obtained a divorce settlement. If you write tome again, please tell me why you think she cares. Did she get equitable distribution? Did she lose any other rights?


Dear Carolyn:

My divorce is a toxic waste dump! The stress is incredible everywhere I turn. Sometimes, I justfreeze up and cannot respond. Other times, I feel like fighting, and I fear I take out my emotions on all of those still around me and still in my life. The stress is affecting my work and my new life.

Our two children are in middle school. I see them retreating, or dodging “bullets” of criticism from their mother, who constantly tells them they are too much like me—their father. We share equal time. So, what can I do? How do I help my twin boys?


Carolyn Answers:

High conflict divorce and especially custody are dangerous for all concerned! Yours fits into that category certainly. You describe two of the classic indicators: the fight or flight response, sometimes also referred to as the fight or freeze response. You mention that sometimes you freeze, and you indicate your sons also retreat (a form of freezing). You also state sometimes you want to fight.

Your brain is involved in this toxic stress situation. High conflict divorce gets the amygdala of the brain involved. The amygdala isthe two almond-shapedclusters in the brain that control emotion. Harmful cortisol also may be released. You and your sons need help.

You need education regarding what is going on and how to deflect the hostility. There are strategies. (1) Mindfulness is almost a buzzwordthese days, but wait—not so easy to accomplish. Keep your mindfocused on the here and now. Realize you are operating from the emotional amygdalapart of the brain. Focus on the now! (2) Accept that your ex is not likely to change. You certainly cannot make the ex change. It is like trying to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time, and it annoys the pig. (3) Get rid of anger, which is a tall order of Long Island Iced Tea. Yes, anger may be justified, but when anger becomes chronic—it takes its toll on you more than anyone else. It burns you from the inside out. (4) Expect your ex to have bad behavior. And, decide ahead of time, what your response will be. Practice the response. Breathe through your nose and feel your diaphragmexpand. Listen to the ocean! (5) Think first about your sons and their needs. Be efficient to meet these needs. (6) Develop a personal care plan. List the things you are thankful for. Focus on what you are doing right. Do not focus on the negative.

When I think of the toxic divorce, I think of the tragedy at Chernobyl. In 1986, a town of 14,000 people near Kiev, Ukraine had a meltdown in a nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Today, few people live there, and Chernobyl is more of a ghost town. There is no thriving in Chernobyl. Could the disaster have been averted? With the toxic divorce, the disaster can be avertedwith a timely and appropriate response. It is up to you! No, you cannot change your ex, and frankly, the ex you described may have a personality disorder like narcissismwhich is quite difficult to modify. You need to deal with your ownenvironmentand recognize how to respond to the situations with the ex beyond your control.


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.

A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need in your unique 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.